Architectural reserve “Tsarevets”


Tarnovo was the capital of the Medieval Bulgarian kingdom for more than two centuries (from the end of XII to the XIV c.) It was a center of political, administrative, religious and cultural life of the kingdom. Contemporaries have described it as “God’s preserved town”, “The Great Tarnov”, “The queen of the towns”, ”the second town in words and acts after Constantinople”.

The first traces of living in the area date back to ancient times. Tarnovo became a capital of the restored Bulgarian state in 1186 after two-century Byzantine rule. The strategic location and the fact that Tarnovo had been one of the best fortified towns in the XII c. was a precondition for its choice as a capital.

The capital was extended on three hills: Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Momina krepost. They were fortified by impressive walls. Residential quarters arouse on the slopes towards the river of Yantra and on its banks.

The inaccessible hill of Tsarevets was the best place where the supreme power of the Bulgarian tsars could be established. The sophisticated fortress system ensured safety of the citizens. The main entrance of the fortress was the west one. It was fortified by four consecutive gates and turrets above them. There was a wooden draw-bridge in front of the first gate.

The king’s palace and the Patriarchal complex were the most impressive ensembles on the hill. The Medieval Bulgarian rulers and their entourage resided at the palace. The complex was reconstructed several times in the period XII-XIV c. It was surrounded by high fortress wall with turrets. Richly decorated buildings were facing an inner yard. The throne room and king’s chambers had marvelous interior. The building of king’s administrators and a lot of service buildings were housed inside the complex. The relics of the most respected Bulgarian female saint – St. Paraskevi were laid down in the Court church dedicated to her.

The Patriarchate – “The mother of all Bulgarian churches”- headed the religious life of the kingdom. It was protected by fortress walls and turrets. Libraries, residential buildings and offices of the patriarch, cells of monks were built inside. The patriarchal church “Ascension of Christ” with a bell-tower were erected in the center of an inner yard.

The rest part of the fortress was densely populated. The foundations of dwelling places, a residential complex inhabited by a high-standing noble, an inn have been found during the archaeological excavations. The fortress amazes with the number of the orthodox churches raised there – 23 churches, 4 of them belonged to monasteries. Their facades were decorated with the typical of the epoch pictorial style and the walls were painted with marvelous frescoes.

The entirely rebuilt patriarchal church “Ascension of Christ” could be seen in our days. The wall-paintings are painted by the artist Teofan Sokerov. The most glorious political and cultural events of our history and some distinguished medieval persons are depicted in monumental scenes.

Opening Hours

8:00 – 19:00(april-october)

9:00 – 17:00(november-march)

Visitors access will not be allowed to enter 45 minutes before the end of closing time.

Address: Veliko Tarnovo

Getting here: The following buses stop near the Museum – 20,40,50,110 (the stop is in front of Tsarevets)

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