Cherven, the best-preserved Bulgarian Medieval fortress, is situated in the vicinity of the town of Rousse, North Eastern Bulgaria. It was build by the river Cherni Ossam, on a rocky crown; the access is by 235 stone steps or using a round road from the side of Danube.
The Medieval town of Cherven, centuries long, even before the conversion of Bulgaria, had been a military, administrative and religious center of the Hertsois. This ethnic group was established as a result of the union among the local population, the Thracians and new settlers, Slavs and Bulgarians, while the name originated from the Slavonic Sun Deity Hers. An evidence proving the importance of Cherven as pagan religious center are the discovered in the fortress sacrificial altars (the so-called “sharaptani”).
After the conversion to Christianity, Cherven became the Bishop’s seat and a great number of churches were built, only 12 discovered at present. Some are amongst the biggest churches built inside of the Balkans during the period 12th – 14th c. Interesting is the fact that the strong pagan traditions left its imprint also on the new Christian temples – on a number of places on the churches walls were discovered paintings of riders, deer and griffins with strange trunks. Of interest are also of the built in the fortification walls sepulchral monuments, the earliest found in Bulgaria. Pagan symbols are depicted on them, which could be seen also on contemporary gravestones in Cherven.
A number of finds are preserved in the fortress – traces of wheel strips, arrow points, halberds, bronze balances, huge fighting balls for destruction of siege machines, pagan paintings. They prove the intensive and varied life of the population. During its flourishing times Cherven had about 10 000 inhabitants: smiths, corn-chandlers, merchants, builders, sewers, goldsmiths, potters, soldiers.
Remarkable building equipment is the tunnel connecting the town with the underground water resource in the foot of the rock crown, the palace (30 x 60m), built in the 13th c. and the fortification walls, 12m high and 3 m tick. Entirely preserved is a rectangular tower, similar to which during the same period was built the famous Baldwin tower in the capital Tarnovgrad.
Today Cherven is archaeological reserve and popular tourist site.
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