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Assenova Fortress

The medieval Assenova Krepost (Assens Fortress) is situated on the top of an enormous rock on the left bank of the Chepelarska River, 3 kilometres south of Assenovgrad. According to the archaeological findings, the first to build a stronghold there were the Thracians in the 5th - 4th century BC. The fortress was also a busy place during both Roman and early Byzantine epochs.

The first written data on Assens Fortress existence was found in the Statute of Bachkovo Monastery where it was referred to as "the stronghold of Petrich". During the Middle Ages the fortress was subject to large-scale construction work, the most significant part of which was done in the 13th century under Tsar Ivan Assen . An eight-line inscription in Bulgarian at the entrance of the fortress commemorates his glory. "In 6739/1231/, Indiction 4, Ivan Assen, by God's will Tsar of the Bulgarians, the Greeks and other peoples, installed Alexi Sevast here in power and erected this fortress".

It was this inscription that encouraged people later to give Petrich Fortress a new name - Assen's Fortress and to rename the nearby town of Stenimachos Assenovgrad. Due to excavation works were discovered the fortress walls, the castle of the feudal lord and three water reservoirs. But the only preserved and most remarkable building in the fortress is a 13th-century church called St Mary of Petrich. It is two-storey, cross-dome, one-nave church with a wide narthex and a big square belfry above it.

It is for the exquisite architecture, the plastic decoration of the south facade and the fragments of the inique 14th-century murals that this church is said to be one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Bulgaria.

The fortress was conquered by the Byzantines under the heirs of Ivan Assen , but in 1344 under Tsar Ivan Alexander the Bulgarians regained it. After the 14th century the fortress lost its strategic position as a frontier stronghold.

Assenova fortress View to the church Remains of the Tower The church St Virgin Mary of Petrich Sign in Old Bulgarian

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