Little Known Late Antiquity, Medieval Fortress Verdittsa in Bulgaria’s Travditsa Granted ‘Monument of Culture’ Status

The plateau of the Verdittsa Fortress provides natural defenses on three sides. Photo: Tvarditsa Municipality

The little known but picturesque ruins of the Late Antiquity and medieval Bulgarian and Byzantine fortress of Verdittsa, originally an Ancient Thracian settlement, near the town of Tvarditsa in Southeast Bulgaria has been granted the highest status of a monument of culture.

The originally Thracian fortification was redeveloped during the early period of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire), and in the Middle Ages became a fortress in the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018), reaching its height in the 12th-14th century, i.e. at the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396/1422).

The picturesque ruins of the Verdittsa Fortress are located on a small plateau with natural defenses on the southern slopes in the eastern section of the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina). In the Second Bulgarian Empire, it served to defend the mountain’s Tvarditsa Pass.

Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture issued in February 2018 an ordinance granting the Verdittsa Fortress the status of a “monument of culture of national importance" following decision by the Expert Council on Cultural Heritage Properties, Tvarditsa Municipality has announced.

The site is officially now known named “Late Antiquity and Medieval Fortress “Verdittsa" in the Gradishte Area near the Town of Tvarditsa". Until this upgrade, it had had the status of a “monument of culture of local importance".

Verdittsa is also referred to as Gradishte, a common Bulgarian word meaning “a fortress".

A different view of the site of the Verdittsa Fortress. Photo: Tvarditsa Municipality

The ordinance of the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture defines the borders of the suburbs of the Late Antiquity and medieval fortress to include plots in the northern part of today’s town of Tvarditsa.

The decision for that is based on the accidental discoveries in the town of medieval funerals, coins, and building ruins.

It has set a requirement that any construction or digging in the said part of the town must be monitored by archaeologists.

Tvarditsa Municipality points out that the status upgrade recognizes the significance of the Verdittsa Fortress for the history of medieval Bulgaria.

What is more, it offers additional opportunities for funding for the further research and respectively restoration and promotion of the fortress.

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A plan of the ruins of the Verdittsa Fortress. The dark lines stand for the sections where the ruins stick above the ground. The dotted lines mark the sections with scattered stones. Map: Tvarditsa Municipality

Medieval arms discovered at the site of the Verdittsa Fortress in Bulgaria’s Tvarditsa. Photo: Tvarditsa Municipality

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Relevant Books on Amazon.com:

A Short History of the Middle Ages, Fourth Edition

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

Bulgaria History, Early Settlement and Empire: Pre-Bulgarian Civilizations, Communism, Society and Environment, Economy, Government and Politics

The Bulgarian-Byzantine Wars for Early Medieval Balkan Hegemony: Silver-Lined Skulls and Blinded Armies

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria

Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World

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Background Infonotes:

The Late Antiquity and medieval Bulgarian and Byzantine fortress of Verdittsa (or Berdittsa), believed to have been originally an Ancient Thracian settlement, is located near the town of Tvarditsa in Southeast Bulgaria.

The originally Thracian fortification was redeveloped during the early period of Byzantium (the Eastern Roman Empire), and later became a fortress in the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018), reaching its height in the 12th-14th century, i.e. at the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396/1422).

The picturesque ruins of the Verdittsa Fortress are located on a small plateau with natural defenses on the southern slopes in the eastern section of the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina).

Verdittsa was especially important in the Second Bulgarian Empire as a garrison guarding the Tvarditsa Pass in the Balkan Mountains.

Verdittsa is also referred to as Gradishte, a common Bulgarian word meaning “a fortress". The name of the fortress and today’s town of Tvarditsa is associated with the Bulgarian word “tvardina" roughly translated as a “stronghold".

It reminds of the better known fortress Vratitsa (also often referred to as Gradishte) near the city of Vratsa (likely stemming from “vrata", the Bulgarian word for “a door") in the western section of the Balkan Mountains.

The plateau where the Verdittsa Fortress was built is surrounded by the bed of the Tvardishka River on three sides (not unlike Tsarevets and Trapesitsa, the citadels of Tarvnograd (Veliko Tarnovo), the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, which are surrounded by the Yantra River) – from the north, west, and south, and is more easily accessible only from the east.

The eastern side of the Verdittsa Fortress was protected with a fortress wall which has been preserved only partly, most notably in the southeastern section where the wall ruins tower at a height of 4-5 meters for a nearly 30-meter stretch.

The southern side of the fortress near Bulgaria’s Tvarditsa had the weakest fortification because of its natural defenses.

Some of the ruins appear to have been fortress towers, and buildings inside the fortress.

The Verdittsa Fortress has a total fortified area of about 20 decares (app. 5 acres). Its fortress wall was about 1.5-1.8 meters thick, while the interior buildings had thinner walls at 1-1.2 meters.

The fortifications were skillfully integrated with the rock formations of the plateau helping to boost the site’s natural defenses.

The Verdittsa Fortress appears to have had vantage point outposts on the nearby mounts seeking to warn the garrison about enemies approaching from the east, west, or south.

The 1.5-meter tall ruins of a church from the 10th-12th century with partly surviving murals stand on the outside of the eastern wall of the Verdittsa Fortress.

The church itself was excavated by archaeologists in the 1960s but was not conserved, and its ruins have collapsed almost completely.

The Verdittsa Fortress near the town of Tvardittsa in Southeast Bulgaria was granted by the Bulgarian government a status of “monument of culture of national importance" in February 2018, paving the way for its further exploration, conservation, and promotion.

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