Click for a full size images
Veliko Tarnovo :The Old Bulgarian Capital
Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgarian: Велико Търново; Veliko Tǎrnovo “Great Tǎrnovo”) Bulgarian pronunciation: [vɛˈliko ˈtɤ̞rnovo] is a city in north central Bulgaria and the administrative centre of Veliko Tarnovo Province.Often referred to as the “City of the Tsars”, Veliko Tarnovo is located on the Yantra River and is famously known as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, attracting many tourists with its unique architecture. The old part of the city is situated on the three hills Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora, rising amidst the meanders of the Yantra. On Tsarevets are the palaces of the Bulgarian emperors and the Patriarchate, the Patriarchal Cathedral, and also a number of administrative and residential edifices surrounded by thick walls.
Trapezitsa is known for its many churches and as the former main residence of the nobility. During the Middle Ages, the city was among the main European centres of culture and gave its name to the architecture of the Tarnovo Artistic School, painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School, and to literature. Veliko Tarnovo is an important administrative, economic, educational, and cultural centre of Northern Bulgaria
The most widespread theory for the name’s origin holds that its original names of Tarnovgrad and Tarnovo come from the Old Bulgarian тръневъ (tranev) or тръновъ (tranov), meaning “thorny”. The suffix “grad” means “city” in Bulgarian and in many Slavic languages. In 1965, the word велико (veliko), meaning “great”, was added to the original name in honour of the city’s status as an old capital of Bulgaria. This also helps distinguish it from the town of Malko Tarnovo.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria, with a history of more than five millennia. The first traces of human presence, dating from the 3rd millennium BC, were discovered on Trapezitsa Hill.
Veliko Tarnovo, originally Tarnovgrad (Търновград), grew quickly to become the strongest Bulgarian fortification of the Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th centuries and the most important political, economic, cultural and religious centre of the empire. In the 14th century, the city was described by Bulgarian cleric Gregory Tsamblak as “a very large city, handsome and surrounded by walls, with 12,000 to 15,000 inhabitants”.
In the 14th century, as the Byzantine Empire weakened, Tarnovo claimed to be the Third Rome, based on its preeminent cultural influence in Eastern Europe.
As the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovo was a quasi-cosmopolitan city, with many foreign merchants and envoys. Tarnovo is known to have had Armenian, Jewish and Roman Catholic (“Frankish”) merchant quarters, besides a dominant Bulgarian population. The discovery of three Gothic heads of statuettes indicates there may have also been a Catholic church.
Тhe political upsurge and spiritual development of Tarnovo were halted when the Ottoman Empire captured the city on 17 July 1393. The siege lasted for three months, with the Bulgarian Patriarch Evtimiy leading the defence. Three years later, the Ottomans conquered the entire Bulgarian Empire.
Bulgarian resistance against Ottoman rule remained centred in Tarnovo (then known as Tırnova) until the end of the 17th century. Two major anti-Ottoman uprisings – in 1598 and in 1686 – started in the city. Tarnovo was consecutively a district (sanjak) capital in the Rumelia Eyalet, in the Silistria Eyalet, and finally in the Danube Vilayet.
Tarnovgrad, along with the rest of present-day Bulgaria, remained under Ottoman rule until the 19th century, when national identity and culture reasserted themselves as a strengthening resistance movement. The goal of the establishment of an independent Bulgarian church and nation motivated the 1875 and 1876 uprisings in the town. On 23 April 1876, the April Uprising marked the beginning of the end of the Ottoman occupation. It was soon followed by the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).
On 7 July 1877, Russian general Joseph Vladimirovich Gourko liberated Veliko Tarnovo, ending the 480-year rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1878, the Treaty of Berlin created a Principality of Bulgaria between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo.
On 17 April 1879, the first National Assembly convened in Veliko Turnovo to ratify the state’s first constitution, known as the Tarnovo Constitution, resulting in the transfer of Parliament from Tarnovgrad to Sofia, which today remains the Bulgarian capital.
In deference to the city’s past, Tsar Ferdinand, of the house of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, chose the Forty Holy Martyrs Church in Veliko Tarnovo as the place to declare the complete independence of Bulgaria on 5 October 1908.
In 1965, the city, then officially known as Tarnovo, was renamed Veliko Tarnovo (Great Tarnovo) to commemorate its rich history and importance.
During Communist rule, the town underwent considerable changes, with some 10,000 of its population thought to have become members of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) by the end of the 1940s. A number of its churches and private enterprises were closed, while the major industries were nationalized. In the early 1950s, the town underwent an intensive process of urbanization, expanding to the west. From the same period also dates the idea of creating a large urban area in Northern Bulgaria encompassing the neighboring towns of Veliko Tarnovo, Gorna Oryahovitsa, and Lyaskovets (popularly known as “Targolyas”).
In 1963, the University of Veliko Tarnovo “St. Cyril and St. Methodius” opened as one of the largest institutions of higher education in the country. Urbanization continued during the 1970s, as the engineering, electronic, medical, computer, and furniture industries expanded in the region, adding the neighborhoods of Akacia and Kartala to the town’s landscape.
Today, Veliko Tarnovo is the center of one of the largest urban areas in Bulgaria and is one of the few cities in the country with a growing population. It is a foremost educational and cultural center, and the home of two major universities and extensive artistic activity. The city is a leading tourist attraction, boasting a steady increase in visitors for the last two decades. During the same period, it has also consistently attracted foreign settlers, and today, the city and its surroundings have become the home of the largest foreign expat community in Bulgaria.
The most popular landmark is the historic hill Tsarevets, which held the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. A number of other sites also attract tourists, including the historic hill Trapezitza, the Samovodskata Charshiya, numerous medieval and Bulgarian Renaissance churches, and the ancient Roman fortress of Nicopolis ad Istrum.