Tsarevets, The Fortress Of The Bulgarian Kings And Patriarchs

One of the most attractive and visited museums in the town of Veliko Tarnovo is the fortress called Tsarevets  – The Fortress Of The Bulgarian Kings And Patriarchs .  Thracians, Byzantines, Slavs and proto-Bulgarians have left here traces from their attendance. The restored fortress walls and towers, the ruins of the king’s palace, the patriarchal temple, raised its silhouette on the very top of the hill, remind us of that glorious time, when the town was the political, economic, religious and cultural centre of the medieval Bulgarian country.
We are walking into the central west entrance, protected with a few consecutively situated gates. We are going through the third, the most imposing and entirely restored gate and we are finding ourselves inside the very kingly fortress. In front of us lie the outlines of a small residential area with the restored foundations of some medieval houses. We are going on with our walk on the street which follows the north-western fortified wall and after awhile our eyes are catching a glimpse of a high authentic pillar with a beautiful capital, probably used in the construction of one of the numerous churches, built on the hill. On our left side is situated a tower, rebuilt in 1976, which in the past was the guard of the third entrance (called the Small or the Assen’s gate) of the fortress. On the both sides of the main street are located a great number of foundations of medieval buildings and of some churches and town monasteries, in which during the Middle ages was seething rapid spiritual life. The street leads us to the Rock of execution of the people, sentenced to death. The legend says that here patriarch Evtimii, the last Bulgarian patriarch and protector of the fortress, had to be put to death. But miraculously the executioner’s hand turned into stone and in this way the patriarch’s life was rescued. Later he was sent into exile by the Turkish authorities to the Bachkovo Monastery where he died in  the beginning of XV century.
We are moving forward on the lane leading to the ruins of the Bulgarian kings’ palace, situated on the most convenient place on the hill. We are going into the main entrance from the north and are staying at the place where the throne-room was located. Very few things have remained after the Turkish invasion. On the east can be seen the foundations of the king’s church, where probably had been preserved the relics of the St. Petka Tarnovska, a protectress of the medieval Bugarian capital. In the south-eastern part of the palace had been situated the rooms of the king and the other members of the king’s family, and as well as the kitchen with its oven and the dining-room. The marble tiles outline the big throne-room, which was ornate with mural paintings and mosaic.
On the highest point of the hill was located the residence of the Bulgarian patriarchs. At this place the Patriarchal church “St. Ascension of Christ” towered above its belfry. The conquerors and the time had not mercy on the temple. From the former mural paintings and the rich intrior decorations almost nothing has left. The Patriarchal church was rebuilt as a monument in 1981 after the design of the architect Boyan Kuzupov and was painted in modern style in 1985 by Teofan Sokerov. Nowadays it is an original museum of our medieval history. The gallery of historical scenes and images reminds us of important and significant events and persons such as: the rebellion of Petar and Assen, which led to the recovery of the Bulgarian kingdom in the end of the XII century and to the announcement of Tarnovo as a capital; the victory of king Kaloyan near Odrin in 1205 over the Latin knights; king Ivan Assen II, who broaden the frontiers of Bulgaria on three seas; king Ivan Alexander – one of the most educated and erudite Bulgarian monarchs, when the Bulgarian medieval culture had reached exceptional blossoming forth; the school of the monk-hesychast Teodosii Tarnovski; prince Boris I Michail, who met the students of the holy brothers Kiril and Metodii.
In the temple’s altar is depicted the Virgin Mary and and Christ  like the most magnificent symbols of life. This image and the other mural paintings have completely temporal nature.
The gallery of the historical events and personalities finishes with one of the most dramatical images – the portrait of Evtimii Tarnovski, the last Bulgarian patriarch before our fall under Turkish domination. Under his guidance in the monasteries on the hill Sveta Gora had been working the most prominent representatives of the Tarnovo literary school which exceeded the bounds of Bulgaria and had influenced the development of the Serbian, Romanian and Russian literature.
The names and the achievements of all the Bulgarian medieval patriarchs are perpetuated in the token sepulcher, built in the temple’s porch.
We are going out of the patriarchal church, the music of Yoan Kukuzel is still tingling in our ears and in front of us is Tarnovo – the ancient and the modern town.

Rumyana Pavlova – a tourist guide
Regional Historical Museum – Veliko Tarnovo