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A Brief History of Bulgaria's Belogradchik Fortress

Picture of Maria Angelova
Maria Angelova
Updated: 22 March 2017

If you like including at least one ancient fortress in your trip itineraries, Bulgaria has much to offer. For a truly spectacular experience, combined with amazing nature, head northwest to the town of Belogradchik where the Belogradchik Fortress has been standing for centuries. The name Belogradchik literally means “white construction,” standing for the shining fortress rising above the town, while the official name of the fortress is Belogradchik Kale (kale meaning a fortress in Turkish).

When was Belogradchik Fortress erected?

Historians believe it happened in the time of the Roman Empire. The Romans were clever enough to choose a site where there was almost no need to build. The natural rocky landscape meant that walls from only two sides had to be built – from the northwest and from the southeast. For the rest of the structure, rock verticals as high as 230 feet (70 meters) were used. At the initial state of its life, the Belogradchik Fortress served merely as a lookout point.

The Middle Ages and recent history of Belogradchik Fortress

At a certain point, during the reign of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Sratsimir (14th century), the fortress had to acquire a tougher military function. At that time, the Ottoman Empire was gaining new territories in Europe, and thus it forced many rulers, including the Bulgarians, to strengthen their defense systems. In this period, the fortress was the second most important in the state of Ivan Sratsimir, only after his castle – the Vidin Fortress.

During the Ottoman rule of the region, the fortress was reconstructed and reinforced once again because of the rebellion activity that was taking place. As for recent history, the last time the fortress was used as a military site was during the Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885.

The Belogradchik Fortress as a monument

The whole area of today’s Belogradchik Fortress is more than 100,000 square feet (10,000 square meters). The walls are 6.5 feet (2 meters) thick at their base and 40 feet (12 meters) high. The astounding rock formations around the fortress are known as Belogradchik rocks and were formed more than 200 million years ago after once being part of a sea bottom.

The fortress is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, and the entrance fee is BGN 3 (less than US$2).