Veliko Tarnovo Museum to Raise Bulgarian Flag on Trapesitsa Fortress after Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

A large Bulgarian flag will be flown over the partly restored Trapesitsa Fortress 12 years after one was raised on its twin citadel, the Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo. Photo: Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History

The History Museum in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo has raised enough funds from donations in order to buy a sizable Bulgarian flag for the new open-air museum at the Trapesitsa Fortress.

Alongside the Tsarevets Hill Fortress, the Trapesitsa Fortress was one of the two main citadels of medieval Tarnovgrad, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396/1422) for 208 years.

In the fall of 2016, the partial restoration of the Trapesitsa Fortress created a new venue for cultural tourism in Veliko Tarnovo.

However, the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History had already started a fundraiser back in May in anticipation of the opening in order to purchase and fly a large Bulgarian flag at the fortress.

A similar crowdfunding effort paid for the raising of a Bulgarian flag on the Tsarevets Fortress back in 2005.

While the fortress on the Tsarevets Hill has been more thoroughly researched, was partly restored between 1930 and 1980, and is presently Bulgaria’s most visited cultural landmark, the Trapesitsa Fortress is still being excavated by archaeologists.

It has recently been partly restored in a project with a controversial source of funding: the Heydar Aliyev Foundation of the government of Azerbaijan, which provided EUR 1.2 million.

The flag to be purchased for Trapesitsa will be 5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide, and will most probably be raised on a 9-meter-tall post on a restored tower on the southern wall of the fortress.

Another option would be to raise the flag on the highest point of Trapesitsa which is also where an imperial palace of the Asen Dynasty (1185-1257) used to stand.

The achievement of the fundraising target for the Trapesitsa flag raising has been announced by Ivan Tsarov, Director of the Veliko Tarnovo Museum, as cited by the Trud daily.

Tsarov has made it clear that the Bulgarian flag is to be flown over the Trapesitsa Fortress on March 3, which is the Day of Bulgaria’s National (albeit partial) Liberation from the Ottoman Empire back in 1878.

The conquest of the Second Bulgarian Empire by the invading Ottoman Turks at the end of 14th century is what put an abrupt end to the thriving medieval Bulgarian cities, including Tarnovgrad, the predecessor of today’s Veliko Tarnovo, ushering into a period of near five centuries known in Bulgarian history as the Ottoman Yoke (1396/1422 – 1878/1912).

The new open-air museum on the Trapesitsa Hill was opened for 40 days after its formal inauguration, welcoming over 5,000 visitors. It is to be reopened for tourists as of March 20, 2017, if the weather allows it, Tsarov says.

The campaign to raise the Bulgarian flag on the Trapesitsa Fortress has been part of the events for the 145th anniversary of the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History.

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Background Infonotes:

The Trapesitsa Hill is one of two main fortified historic hills in the medieval city of Tarnovgrad, today’s Veliko Tarnovo, in Central Northern Bulgaria, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire between 1185 and 1396 AD. Together with the Tsarevets Hill, Trapesitsa was one of the two fortresses of the inner city acropolis of Tarnovgrad (Veliko Tarnovo). The Trapesitsa Hill is a natural fortress on the right bank of the Yantra River, and is surrounded by it on three sides. It is located northwest of the Tsarevets Hill. The Trapesitsa Fortress had four gates, the main one being its southern gate, which was also connected with the Tsarevets Fortress with a bridge across the Yantra River. There are two hypotheses about Trapesitsa’s name. The first one is that it comes from the Bulgarian word “trapeza" meaning a “table" or “repast", possibly referring to the receptions of the medieval Bulgarian Tsars; the second hypothesis is that the word comes from “trapezium" because the hill is in fact is a trapezoidal plateau.

The first archaeological excavations on the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo between 1884 and 1900 revealed the foundations of 17 medieval Bulgarian churches with fragments of rich murals, colorful mosaics, and beautiful floor tiles. The documented artifacts discovered there include crosses, necklaces, coins, rings, earrings, vessels. The churches on Trapesitsa were richly decorated with various architectural forms such as pilasters, niches, blind arches, colored slabs, among others.

The largest preserved church on the Trapesitsa Hill known as “Church No. 8″ is named after the 10th century AD Bulgarian saint, St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila) (876-946 AD); it was surrounded with other buildings which are believed to have been part of a monastery complex. It is known that in 1195 AD, Bulgaria’s Tsar Asen I (r. 1189-1196 AD) transported the relics of St. Ivan Rilski from the city of Sredets (today’s Sofia) to Tarnovgrad (today’s Veliko Tarnovo), and had them placed in the specially constructed church on the Trapesitsa Hill. The Bulgarian archaeologists believe that a room in the southern part of Church No. 8 was the reliquary for St. Ivan Rilski’s relics. The relics of St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila), who is Bulgaria’s patron saint, were kept in Veliko Tarnovo until 1469 AD when they were transported to the Rila Monastery where they are kept to this day in what became a major event for the Bulgarians during the early period of the Ottoman Yoke (1396-1878/1912), as the Second Bulgarian Empire had been conquered by the invading Ottoman Turks in 1396 AD.

The numerous and richly decorated small churches indicate that the Trapesitsa Hill harbored the homes of the medieval Bulgarian nobility, the boyars, and the supreme clergy. More recent excavations, however, also indicate that the imperial palace of the early Bulgarian Tsars from the House of Asen (the Asen Dynasty, r. 1185-1257 AD) was in fact located on the Trapesitsa Hill, and the imperial seat was possibly moved to the nearby Tsarevets Hill only later, during the reign of Tsar Ivan Asen II (r. 1218-1241 AD). In the recent years, the Trapesitsa Hill has been excavated by Prof. Konstantin Totev from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and by Prof. Hitko Vatchev from the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History.