Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Period / Modern Times

Veliko Tarnovo, historic town

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Veliko Tarnovo, historic town

About the site


Corridor: Eastern Trans-Balkan Road
Country: Bulgaria, Veliko Turnovo
Type: Christian religious centre, Fortress, Historic Town, Vernacular Architecture
Epoch: Modern Times, Middle Ages
Theme: Fortresses, Vernacular Architecture
World Heritage:
Modern TimesMiddle AgesFortressesVernacular ArchitectureChristian religious centreFortressHistoric TownVernacular Architecture

Veliko Tarnovo is located in central Bulgaria, in the foot of the Balkan range. It is laid in an amphitheater-like way on the historical hills Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and the Holy Mount, among which the Yantra river meanders picturesquely.
The Tsarevets hill has been inhabited by the most ancient settlers on the Bulgarian lands – the Thracians. At the beginning of the 6th c. Byzantine converted it into a fortified town, ruined by the attacks of the Slavs in the first half of the 7th c.
After the founding of the Bulgarian state Tarnovo was included in its boundaries – as important element in the system of defense fortresses, controlling the passages through the Balkan range, and in the 12th c. it became capital of the Bulgarian state. Thus the beginning was set of an entire building period – the town expanded tremendously, occupied new territories, a number of monumental buildings for the needs of the state and religious institutions were built, inside and round the city were founded numerous monasteries. The “Tzarevets” hill, where the King’s palace and the Patriarchy were situated, became famous as “the most inaccessible and most beautiful of all towns along Hem”. The fortification walls, encircling the town were reconstructed and consolidated, on the fortified territory were built above 20 churches and hundreds of residential buildings and handicraft workshops. Only a few monuments from the Medieval Bulgarian capital were preserved, as the town was almost completely destroyed after the conquest and almost five centuries long Ottoman domination – these are the churches “St. Dimitar from Thessaloniki”, “The Forty Holy Martyrs”, “St. George” and “St. Peter and Paul”. Some of the ruins (the fortification wall and the Patriarchy) were reconstructed, others – exhibited the way they were found.
During the Revival (18th – 19th c.), as a result of the rapid development of handicrafts and trade, construction flourished. Numerous residential buildings were erected, as well as handicraft workshops and inns, new trade centres and streets were developed. At the end of this period there were about 70 inns existing in the town; presently preserved is the inn of the merchant Hadji Nikoli, built by the prominent throughout Bulgaria builder-master Nikola Fichev (Kolio Ficheto). He created a number of remarkable churches, “The house with the monkey”, the “Konak” (the seat of the Turkish administration). In that building after the Liberation was held the constituent assembly that developed the main law of New Bulgaria – the Tarnovo constitution.

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