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Peristera Fortress

100 National Tourist Sites

After a successful restoration, the restored late antique and medieval Peristera fortress on €œSveta Petka hill above the town of Peshtera was officially opened to visitors on May 22, 2014. In 2012, the fortress was declared an immovable cultural asset of national importance. The site is an outstanding achievement in the field of cultural tourism. The fortress has preserved the history and spirit of several eras. It is assumed that this was the first settlement of the Thracian Besi tribe, who lived here more than 2000 years ago.

In the center of the citadel is a complex of megaliths, most likely the remains of a Thracian sanctuary with rock-hewn steps. At the end of the hill, archaeologists found clay burial urns in the shape of a sarcophagus, which are missing from most Thracian burials. The largest stone, which is located in the center of the citadel, has a shape resembling a dove. Perhaps time has sculpted the bizarre shape of this rock piece and human imagination has developed it further, but there is a beautiful legend, whose heroine gives her name to our fortress-the legend of Peristera-the rock pigeon. Already in the period 13-11 years before Christ, an uprising of the Thracian tribe Besi broke out in the Rhodope Mountains, led by their priest Vologez.

The Roman legions besieged the last Thracian fortress of the Besi, on the towers of which danced those who yearned to die Thracian wars. According to the beliefs of the Thracians, they they wept when a man was born because of the life that lay ahead of him and rejoiced when they died because they were going to the kingdom of their supreme god. The Roman legionnaires arrived by the thousands and already tasted their victory when, one autumn evening, from the eaves of the heavenly fortress they heard ancient, mysterious chants and into the abyss flew the last and defenders. The daughter of Vologez flew first through the teeth. For thousands of years they did not learn the name and they called her Peristera-dove, as the Roman legionnaires called her, shaken by her self-sacrifice. The spirit of the beautiful Thracian woman took over into the formless stone and turned it into a rock dove.

During the excavations, more than 300 unique finds were discovered – in addition to gold coins, archaeologists found various parts of the clothing of ancient soldiers, arrowheads, fibulae, 80 pithos, ornaments. Fragments of inscriptions, marble details of the buildings, clay and glass vessels were found. A bronze lamp with a magnificent medieval cross was also discovered, which proves the functions of the fortress as a spiritual center.

Coin finds minted under the emperors Diocletian (284-305), Constantine I the Great (324-337) and Julian II (360-363) prove that the fortress was already functioning in the late Roman period, it was probably destroyed during the second Gothic war in 376, under Emperor Valens, after his defeat at Adrianople on August 9, 379. The most numerous are the artifacts from the third period of Peristera – a century and a half later, the hill was part of the defensive rampart protecting the road to the White Sea from invaders .

It was during the time of Emperor Justinian I the Great (527-565) that two of the six towers were converted into single-nave churches (only two other such tower-temples are known – in Serbia). The fortress had its greatest prosperity under the next ruler – Justin II (565-578) and was burned during the reign of Emperor Tiberius II Constantine (578-582) – from his time are the latest coins found here. In the Middle Ages, the fortress was partially rebuilt again, but was completely destroyed by the Ottoman invaders at the end of the 14th century. The fortress walls of the citadel, which are 253 m long. enclose an area of nearly 3 decares.

There is a second fortress wall enclosing an area of 12 decares and a third, strengthening belt of 20 decares. A red marking that runs along the entire fortress wall shows the remains of the authentic wall, made of crushed stone joined with mortar, the rest part was completed during the restoration of the fortress. 28 rooms are exposed, spread out along the inner face of the fortress wall, which are of different sizes and probably with different purposes: living quarters for the soldiers, commercial premises, workshops, warehouses. In these premises, 75 pithos of different sizes have been studied archaeologically, with 45 of them being exhibited on site.

They are called the refrigerators of antiquity. They stored wheat, olive oil and other foodstuffs necessary for feeding the soldiers who inhabited the fortress. The quantity supplies could feed a garrison for 18 months in the event of a siege. It is assumed that in the center of the citadel, in the highest part, was the home of the castrophylax.

Accompanying infrastructure has also been built for the attraction. 4 gazebos have been built for visitors to relax, an additional path for people with disabilities, a parking lot, and an information center. The hill of St. Petka Bulgarska became a dendrological and archaeological park, a green theater against the background of the restored fortress walls.

As part of the animation in the tourist attraction, visitors have the opportunity to take pictures in men’s military clothing typical of the era. Everyone who has taken advantage of this attraction has the opportunity to take a video among the replicas of the siege and defensive combat equipment. Pagan rituals from the spiritual culture of the Thracian Besi tribe associated with the god Dionysius are being restored. This attraction represents a Thracian ritual related to the production of wine – Dionysian festivals – held in November. It includes the whole palette of actions related to winemaking, planting vines, picking grapes and making wine. Visitors have the opportunity to taste the wines of private winemakers.

The producer of the best wine is crowned king Vinot; Spring Festival of Flowers. One of the most significant attractions takes place annually in a dendrological and archeological park, which throughout the annual natural cycle changes its color – from the first colorful violet glow of almonds in February, the white and pink flowers of magnolias in March, lilacs in April, etc., to the bright fiery yellow fall in autumn, the evergreen silver firs, sabine and ivy all year round. At this celebration of the reviving nature, visitors get to know the different types of plant species and flowers planted on the territory of the archaeological complex. They learn to make beautiful bouquets, ikebana, plant flowers in pots and outdoors, design flower gardens, etc.

A touch screen with the assistance of the tour guide provides an opportunity with the help of new technologies to obtain detailed visual information about the ancient history of the Rhodope Mountains, the Holy Hill €žSt. Petka€ and the late antique and medieval fortress, the natural framework and ecology of the surroundings of the town of Peshtera.

On the stone walls of the southeast tower-church are exposed panels with images of the most valuable coins from the collective gold treasure discovered in one of the exposed pitos. Married couples enter into a civil marriage on the territory of the citadel, against the background of the restored fortress walls and battle towers, and here they receive their marriage certificate.

Branch seminars at the municipal, district and national level are held at the fortress, some of them accompanied by attractive historical reenactments from the era of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Regardless of the fragile age of the attraction (not even a year has passed since the official opening of the Peristera Fortress€ as a tourist site), it enjoys a large number of visitors.

Work time:
Every day: 09:00 – 16:30
Weekends: Monday

Entrance fees:
Adults – 5.00 BGN.
Students – 2.00 BGN.


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