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Veliko Tarnovo - Tsarevets hill


Tsarevets (BulgarianЦаревец) is a medieval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, and is a popular tourist attraction.

The whole stronghold is girdled by thick walls (reaching up to 3,6 m) and was served by three gates. The main gate was at the hill's westernmost part, on a narrow rock massif, and featured a draw-bridge. The second gate is 18 m away from the first one and the third one, which existed until 1889, is 45 m further.

The palace is located on the hill's central and plain part, which was a closed complex encircled by a fortified wall, 2 towers and 2 entrances, a main one from the north and one from the south. It featured a throne room, a palace church and a royal residential part and encompassed 4872 m².

On the top of the hill is the patriarchate, a complex with an area of about 3000 m². The Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God, built on the grounds of an Early Christian one, was reconstructed in 1981 and painted in 1985. The frescoes inside, painted in a striking modernist style rather than in the style of traditional Orthodox frescoes, depict conventional Christian subjects as well as glorious and tragic moments of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

Baldwin's Tower (Балдуинова кула), a modern reconstruction of a medieval tower modeled after the tower in Cherven and built in 1930, is located in the southeastern part of the fortress. It is located at the place of the original medieval tower where Latin Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinoplefound his death as a prisoner of Kaloyan of Bulgaria.

During the Middle Ages, residential buildings, craftsman's workshops and numerous churches and monasteries were situated on the slopes of the Tsarevets hill. Archaeologists have discovered 400 residential buildings, differentiated in quarters, over 22 churches and 4 monasteries.

Tsarevets hill is also the location of Execution Rock, an outcropping over the Yantra River from which traitors were pushed to their deaths and their bodies fell into the river. There Patriarch Joachim was executed by the Tsar Theodore Svetoslav in the year 1300.