The city of whistling winds
A masterpiece of Kolyu Ficheto is the symbol of SvishtovAdelina Lozanova
One of Bulgaria's most interesting cities on the River Danube is Svishtov, located at the southernmost point of the river, on a steep bank. The city became an important centre already in the times of the Roman Empire when it played a key role in stopping Barbarian invasions on the Balkans.
In 48 AD, the Eighth Legio Augusta founded a military camp here, exactly on the steep edge of the river. Called Novae, it soon developed into a city, and later Theodoric the Great chose it as the central city of the Ostrogoths, whom he ruled when he settled in the region in 483. During the Middle Ages the city was mentioned as Zibestova and was a regional centre.
The present-day name is derived from Sistova, which was the designation sealed in the peace treaty of 1791 between Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. The word's etymology is related to the Bulgarian verb “svistia” (to whistle), most likely because of the high winds to which the city is exposed. Another hypothesis can be found in a book by traveller and explorer Evliya Celebi, according to whom the Vlach military leader (voivode) Svishtov built a fortress to stand up against Sultan Murad.
On 15 June 1877, it was exactly at Svishtov where the Russian army crossed the Danube at the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, making Svishtov the first Bulgarian city liberated from the Ottomans. Monuments were erected at the spot of the troops landing to commemorate the 812 soldiers who perished in that battle.
Overall, on the territory of present-day Svishtov there are over 120 culture monuments, archaeological sites and monuments of art. The Church of the Holy Trinity is considered as the symbol of the city. It was built in 1865-1867 by one of the greatest Bulgarian masters of the National Revival period, the self-taught architect, builder and sculptor Kolyu Ficheto. The magnificent three-nave church with four cupolas and a belfry tower over its entrance dominates the city's highest point.
Built of stone, with straight rows and smooth joints, the church is 35 metres long and 19.60 metres wide. Stone pillars, 9.5 metres high, support the roof. The church's iconostasis was made in 1870-1872 and was painted by the eminent Bulgarian artist and icon-painter Nikolay Pavlovich. Of special value is the Church of St Demetrius, a monument of culture of the 16th century. The visitors can see the wood-carved altar cross made in 1642 with an inscription in Church Slavonic. The clock tower, another landmark of the city, was erected in 1763 and is 23 metres tall.
Svishtov is very proud of its ethnographic collection which is exhibited in the so-called Sladkarov house. Built in 1800, it catches the eye thanks to its imposing look resembling a small fortress. The exposition illustrates the thriving trade of Svishtov during the National Revival period.