History 18.07.2023

Medieval Fortified Town of Cherven

Cherven was one of the biggest towns of Bulgaria in the period of 12th-14th century. Its inhabitants were Thracians (4th – 2nd century B.C.) and Byzantines (4th – 6th century A.D.). It had been a bishop’s residence and a craft centre.

The stronghold of Cherven (Bulgarian: Червен, ‘red’) was one of the Second Bulgarian Empire’s primary military, administrative, economic and cultural centres between the 12th and the 14th century. The riuns of the fortress are located near the village of the same name 30-35 km south of Ruse, northeastern Bulgaria.

The town was a successor to an earlier Byzantine fortress of the 6th century, but the area has been inhabited since the arrival of the Thracians. Cherven was first mentioned in the 11th century in an Old Bulgarian apocryphal chronicle. It gained importance after 1235, when it became the seat of the medieval Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric of Cherven. It was affected by the Mongol Golden Horde raids in 1242 and was briefly conquered by Byzantine troops during the reign of Tsar Ivailo (1278-1280).

During the second half of the 14th century, the stronghold’s area exceded 1 km² and had intensive urban development, including a fortified inner city on vast rock ground in one of the Cherni Lom river’s bends, and an outer city at the foot of the rocks and on the neighbouring hills. The town had complex fortification system and was completely built up. Cherven grew to become a centre of craftsmanship in the 14th century, with iron extraction, ironworking, goldsmithing, construction and arts being well developed. The town was an important junction of roads from the Danube to the country’s interior, which also made the town a key centre of trade.

Cherven was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1388, initially retaining its administrative functions but later declining in importance. The modern village of Cherven located close to the ruins of the fortress has, as of September 2005, 302 inhabitants.
Visiting of the site can be performed by a motor vehicle or on foot. Hiking around the medieval ruins can be combined with examining the natural landmarks in the natural park. Ecological routes leading to most of them are made. The beautiful cave Orlova Chuka is also situated nearby. Other two interesting sites are also situated in close proximity – the Ivanovo Rock Churches, included in the UNESCO World heritage list, and the Basarbovski Monastery – the only active rock monastery in Bulgaria.