Standing guard to the capital
Medieval Cherven was among the most important centres of the Second Bulgarian KingdomAdelina Lozanova
Situated about 30 kilometres south of Rousse, the medieval fortified city of Cherven is part of the Rusenski Lom Nature Park. Cherven's predecessor was a Byzantine stronghold built around the 5th-6th centuries in an area that was first settled by Thracians. Cherven was one of the biggest administrative, military, economic, religious and cultural centres of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom between the 12th and the 14th centuries.
Perched on a high rocky hill and almost encircled by the winding Rusenski Lom River, much of the city's complex system of fortifications has been preserved. Cherven is first mentioned in historical records from the 11th century. The apocryphal Story of Prophet Isaiah reads: “… a king named Gega, also known as Odelyan, built on Bulgarian soil the cities of Cherven, Nessebar and Shtip”. There is also mention of Cherven in the hagiology of Theodosius of Tarnovo, written in the second half of the 14th century.
Its strategic location and good defence system made Cherven an important military centre tasked with protecting the north approach to the capital Tarnovo. Situated at the crossing of routes connecting the Danube River with different parts of the country, Cherven was also a major trade hub. In 1235 the city became the local bishopric's centre, with several monasteries cut in the rocks of the surrounding area. The city fell into decay for a short period of time following the Tatar incursion in the middle of the 13th century, but was restored to glory in the 14th century as it became a centre of ironworking, goldsmith's trade, construction and artistic crafts. The city fell into oblivion after it was conquered and destroyed by the Ottomans in 1388.
The medieval settlement had a fortified inner city on top of a high rocky plateau and an outer city situated at its foot. The boyar's castle was on the highest point with the bishopric's church directly opposite. It is one of 13 churches kept in the architectural style of the Tarnovo Artistic School that were found in the city.
Excavation works uncovered fortified walls, two underground channels for water supply, administrative and public buildings, numerous homes and thousands of artefacts - several coin treasures, adornments, ceramic works, objects of everyday life, weapons, etc. A three-storey fortress tower from the 14th century was found almost intact. On the west side of the main city are the remains of workshops with deep pear-shaped iron smelters cut into stone. The devices feature built-in channels for pumping in air. A considerable amount of slag was found in their vicinity.