|March 5, 2011||Posted by ivailo under Landmarks|
The Belogradchik Fortress (Belogradchiska krepost), also known as Kaleto, is an ancient fortress close to the northwestern Bulgarian town of Belogradchik and the town’s primary cultural and historical tourist attraction, drawing, together with the Belogradchik Rocks, the main flow of tourists into the region. It is one of the best-preserved strongholds in Bulgaria and a cultural monument of national importance.
The fortress’ walls are over 2 meters (7 ft) thick in the foundation and reaching up to 12 m (39 ft) in height. Three separate fortified yards exist that are connected with each other through gates. The fortress has a total area of 10,210 square meters (109,899.5 sq ft). The Belogradchik Fortress was reconstructed to later become a proclaimed cultural monument. It is managed by the local historical museum authority.
The initial fortress was constructed during the time when the region was part of the Roman Empire. The rock formations in the area served as a natural protection, as fortified walls were practically only built from the northwest and southeast, with the yard being surrounded by rocks up to 70 m (230 ft) high from the other sides.
Initially, the Belogradchik Fortress served for surveillance and not strictly defense. Bulgarian tsar of Vidin Ivan Stratsimir extended the old fortress in the 14th century, building fortified garrisons before the existing rock massifs. During Stratsimir’s rule, the Belogradchik Fortress became one of the most important strongholds in the region, second only to the tsar’s capital fortress of Vidin, Baba Vida.
During the Ottoman conquest of Bulgaria, the fortress was captured by the Ottomans in 1396. They were forced to further expand the stronghold due to the intensified hajduk and insurrectionist activity in the region.
Considerable changes to the fortress were made in the early 19th century. These changed were typical for the Ottoman castle architecture of the period, a full reorganization being carried out, as well as additional expansion. Typically European elements were added to the Belogradchik Fortress owing to the French and Italian engineers that participated in the expansion.
The stronghold had an important role in the Ottoman suppression of the Bulgarian Belogradchik Uprising of 1850. It was last used in warfare during the Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885.
When the Romans settle down permanently on the south bank of the Danube, they built there a stronghold by entwining into its walls the difficult to access Belogradchik Rocks. The fortress follows the destiny of the rebellious region – it as well as the village, is destroyed countless times and after that rebuilt again. But even now it amazes the people who visit with the skillful combination of the constructions with the stone massifs of the marvelous rocks near the town in one joint stronghold system.
The first fortress which was built by the Romans was made to guard the Roman road from Ritziariya on the Danube to Nish and the Nish valley. Near it – according to the legend – later on the Bulgarian village of Zelenigrad was blooming.
The fortress itself was used as a residence to the Bulgarian tsar Ivan-Sratzimir who renovated and enlarged it. It was seriously damaged during the Ottoman assaults and was almost destroyed during the second half of the 16th century. In its current state, the constructions from the last building period, made during the rule of Sultan Mahmud the Second, are predominant.
The Belogradchik stronghold is connected with dramatic episodes of the battles for national liberation in the Vidin region. Hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians find their death before its walls during the village uprising in the Timok region and during the Vidin uprising in 1850 which was brutally crushed. The last time when the stronghold was used as a fortification installation was during the Serbian-Bulgarian war in 1885. In 1959 the Belogradchik fortress is announced a cultural monument. It was restored and turned into an open-air museum. It became a place for often visits of foreign as well as Bulgarian tourists.