The Kale Fortress The Belogradchik fortress is a historical and architectural monument. The Bulgarian architects Diakovich and Dobrouzki made the first hypothesis for the ancient building in the end of the 19-th century. In the period between 100 – 300 AC, there was an ancient fortification built on the highest point of the rock massive. It used to guard the Roman road stretching north from Ratsiaria (on the Danube), passing trough the Balkan Mountains and continuing south to Nish, Skopie and Rome. The road was used mainly for military purposes. Communication was established with smoke signals during the day, using giant fires by night and when there was fog – by pounding giant drums. 150-meter-deep pits surrounded the fortification and the only access to it by that time was a 25-meter ladder cut directly in the rock. The archeological research has found many arrows, spear tips and metal parts, as well as pottery and Roman coins from the third century. Bulgarian historians have found evidence of about 17 other fortresses in the Belogradchik region, whose features include bases of ancient buildings and an aqueduct. In the second half of the 14-th century, the Bulgarian ruler Ivan Sratzimir expanded the existing fortification. He also built two walls (Southeast and Northwest) and put a garrison inside. In his reign, the Belogradchik fortress became the second-best in size and importance after the Vidin fortress, which was his main castle.

In 1365, the Hungarian king Ludovik I invaded the Vidin area, captured Ivan Sratzimir and joined the entire region to Hungary. Historical data says that the other castles were built right after the Hungarian reign. Till the end of the occupation – in the year 1369, there was a Hungarian garrison in the Belogradchik fortress. In the end of the 14-th century the Bulgarian land was conquered by the Otoman Empire, and in 1396 the Turks took over the Belogradchik castle. In 1454 the population of the fortress consisted of only eight guards. A hundred years later, the soldiers inside the fortress were 27, including a local captain. This data is taken from a Turkish file, which tells us about the food necessities of the region. Analogical data was found in documents from 1691 and 1719. The riots in the area forced the Turkish authorities to widen and fortify the building. In the beginning of the 19-th century they made insignificant repairs and fortifications without changing its medieval look. The period 1805 – 1837 is known for the huge reconstruction and enlargement of the fortress. It was accomplished in the contemporary building standart. By that time the fortress’ main improvements were built – 12-meter walls, three castle yards, metal gates, gun slots, granaries and ammo depots. The outer defense of the castle was also built by that time – the outer circle made out of berried wooden stakes and knitted baskets filled with stones and gravel. By that time the fortress received its European look. We know all about this improvement from the two marble sings written in both Turkish and Bulgarian, where the builders announced their change for the future generations. The signs read that the Turkish sultan Mahmoud II and the Vidin pasha Hussein improved the fortress by that time. Over the second gate the marble plate contains quotes from the Holy Koran: All our victories are bound to Allah. The remains, which can be seen nowadays, are the headquarters of the guards and the passageways below the fortress. The latter were used as dungeon and storage place for goods. At the time of the Turkish occupation Bulgarian fighters for independence were imprisoned in those dungeons. The drawings of Felix Canitz – the Austrian-Hungarian traveler give us the only visual idea how did the fortress look in the 19th century. The Belogradchik fortress amazes us not only with its history but also with its aesthetics. The castle walls are decorated with columns, niches and reliefs with stylized images of plants and animals. The arches of the entrances are decorated with combination of red and white rocks. In the Russian-Turkish war in 1877-1878 the fight for the castle was given to colonel Kantili and his squad. They were part of the army lead by general Haralamb. The last time the fortress witnessed war activity was during the war between Bulgaria and Serbia in 1885. In the battles, the Bulgarian troops lead by colonel Dvorianov pushed the Serbian forces away from the surrounding mountains and marched to regain the Vidin region. From 1958 to 1964 the castle received small improvements: it was made available for tourist visits. Also the place was included in the 100 national tourist places and monuments of the Bulgarian culture.

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