Capital of fight for freedom

Panagyurishte was at the heart of the April Uprising of 1876

The house of Raina the Princess, now turned museum.

Just 90 kilometres southeast of Sofia, at the foothills of Central Sredna Gora Mountains, lies the small and pretty town of Panagyurishte. It is best known as the centre of the April Uprising of 1876, which subsequently led to the formation of the modern Bulgarian State, as well as for the breathtaking Thracian golden treasure found in its vicinity.

The town was named Panagyurishte after the local fair (panaguri in Greek) held here under the Ottomans. The place has been inhabited since antiquity. Tens of burial mounds tell the history of the Thracian tribes that once lived in these lands.

The world's most famous of the Thracian gold hoards, the Treasure of Panagyurishte, was discovered in one of those mounds in 1949. It consists of nine gold vessels, all of them pure gold and weighing more than six kilograms (13 lbs) combined.

While under the Ottomans, by a Sultan's decree, Panagyurishte was granted a special status as a military settlement, as goods intended for the Turkish army were manufactured here. It supposed exclusive privileges such as relative self-government and exemption from some taxes. Consequently, the town thrived and in the 18th and the 19th centuries evolved into a major educational and cultural hub. In 1839, a school for boys and in 1843 a girls' school were established here.

Undoubtedly, the April Uprising was a highpoint in Panagyurishte's history. It was part of the fight to liberate Bulgaria from the centuries-long Ottoman rule. In the spring of 1876, immigrant and local revolutionaries proclaimed the town the centre of the upcoming revolt. On 13 April the first ever Bulgarian Grand National Assembly was convened in a nearby locality, named Oborishte. The beginning of the uprising was announced on 20 April, at the Tutev's House, now a museum.

However, the uprising was quickly squashed. Most of Panagyurishte was reduced to ashes, yet several houses related to these April events survived. One of them was the house of the leading teacher in the local all-girls school, Raina Popgeorgieva, called Raina the Princess, who embroidered in silk the rebels' flag, featuring a roaring lion and the inscription “Freedom or Death!” The house, built in 1673, is typical of the local asymmetrical design of houses facing a large yard. The Dudekov's house, built in 1853-1856, boasts a facade with a trapezium-shaped frontispiece and a colonnade. The Lekov's house is notable for its murals, The Wheel of Life among others. The three Panagyurishte churches, Presentation of the Virgin, St George of Lydda and St Theodore Tyro, are an integral part of the town's architectural heritage.

Panagyurishte also boasts a very popular local speciality - poached eggs in yoghurt with garlic and white cheese, well known all over the country.

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