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Bulgarian Strongholds: Assenova Fortress

Location: Assenova Fortress is situated just 2 km away from Asenovgrad on a steep, rocky hillside, overlooking the Assenitsa River.

History: The fortress was referred to in the past as Petrich, Stenimahos and Scribentsion. In 1230 as a result of the aggravated relations with the Latin Empire, Tsar Ivan Assen II fortified and expanded the strong Stanimaka’s Fortress.
He perpetuated this work of construction art by an inscription, carved above its entrance. This was the reason for the fortress to be renamed to Assenova (Assen’s), and later, in 1934, Stanimaka town, situated right below it- to be renamed to Assenovgrad. With its location and structure Assenova Fortress is a typical example of a fortress construction from the period of the 11th-14th century. It spreads over an area of about 1,5 ha and gives the impression of a unique architectural structure. The walls of the fortress follow the relief of the cliff massif. The steepest slopes are not protected by walls and a high wall was built at the south-west side, where the entrance originally was. The fortress lies on four rocky terraces.

Back in times the stronghold of Assenovgrad was often a guard for the Bulgarian national traits and for the Slav's culture in general. Because of its inaccessibility from the west side, also from the north and south, the fortress served as a means of natural protection. Nowadays the fortress is beautiful tourist attractions, magnificent and powerful, catching the eye from above the hill.
Until now the archaeological excavations have identified several basic buildings of the citadel: a tower, a water storage tank, and a chapel. The most significant and preserved building is the Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa Petrichka ("The Holy Virgin of Petrich"), situated in the north-eastern corner of the fortress.
Every single fresco, every single detail of this temple has been imprinted by the past and tells about it in its own language. It was designed as a cross-domed church. It is a comparatively big two-floor building, 18 m long. The church itself comprises a small narthex and a nave. The narthex is arched with a transverse vault and a quadrangular tower rises above it – a rare element in the church building of the time. There are traces of murals on the walls. Such relics are also found in the arched bays of the south facade. This church dates back from the 12-th century. It is declared a cultural monument of national importance.



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