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Samuel Fortress National Park-Museum

100 National Tourist Sites

Samuil’s fortress is located on the right bank of the Strumeshnitsa river, at the foot of Belasitsa. One of the greatest tragedies in the history of the Bulgarian state took place in this place in 1014.

During a battle in the vicinity of the fortress, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, known as the Bulgarian Slayer, defeated the Bulgarian army led by Tsar Samuil and captured almost all of it. King Samuel and his entourage barely managed to escape. According to Christian doctrine, captive Christians should be released after the end of the war. The Byzantine emperor trampled on this military rule and blinded the captured 14,000-strong Bulgarian army, leaving one leader for every hundred men.

Samuil’s fortress near the village of Klyuch is not only the site of a great tragedy, but also a testimony of cruelty unknown until then in history, an unheard of war crime. There is and cannot be any other definition for the blinding of 14,000 unarmed and defenseless captives. Which is rather a cause for shame than for pride for Basil the Second, who fully deserves the “title” not of Bulgarian, but of Manslayer.

The tragic events of the unfortunate summer of 1014 left deep traces not only in the memory of the population of this region, but also in the legends and names of localities such as Ochevad, Chukalitsa, Smerdeshnitsa and others.
The findings from the archaeological excavations prove that the hill where the fortress was located was inhabited as early as the III-I century BC by the Thracian tribe of the Medes. The settlement on the hill marked its greatest prosperity in the 9th-10th century, when it was densely populated and was probably burned during one of the many campaigns of Basil the Second. In order to make it difficult for the Byzantines to attack, Tsar Samuil built a defense system 8 kilometers long – from Belasitsa to Ograzhden, and built a fortress on the hill, protected by three ramparts and two moats.

On October 23, 1982, a national park-museum was opened with great solemnity. From a distance, the bronze monument of Tsar Samuil /work of the artist Boris Gondov/ can be seen – an expressive, majestic full-length figure, but with bent knees. The ruler – broken not by defeat, but by the pain that will kill him, by his crippled companions. On both sides of the panel, reliefs of soldiers are depicted – both tragic and majestic. Next to the monument is the museum exhibition, where you can see the finds found during the archaeological excavations of the fortress: two marble slabs with Old Bulgarian inscriptions, ornaments, tools, arrows, ceramics.

Work time:
The opening hours for Samuil’s Fortress are:
Summer season /April – September/
from Monday to Friday09:00 – 18:00
Saturday and Sunday 09:00 – 16:00

Winter season October – March
from Monday to Friday 09:00 – 16:00
Saturday and Sunday 09:00 – 16:00

Holidays: January 1; Easter/Sunday/; Christmas/24–25/

Phone: 0879479210

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