Pliska Archaeological Reserve

Pliska is the name of both the first Bulgarian capital /the Danubian Bulgaria/ and a small town /former village/ about 29km away from Shumen, renamed after the historical Pliska, on the spot where its site was determined and comprehensive excavations began. The Pliska National, Historical and Architectural Reserve was declared an important cultural and historical landmark in 1970 and makes one of the best sites of medieval Bulgaria. Pliska /called Pliskusa/ was the capital of Bulgaria from 681 and 893 founded by Khan Asprukh according to the Bulgarian chronicle for purposes of the main political, military, cultural and economic center. Byzantine Army sacked Pliska in 811 but Khan Krum soon drove Byzantines out, after the Battle of Pliska which was one of the worst defeats in the Byzantine history. It deterred Byzantine rulers from sending their troops north of the Balkans for more than 150 years afterwards, which increased the influence and spread of the Bulgarians to the west and south of the Balkan Peninsula, resulting in a great territorial enlargement of the First Bulgarian Empire. King Vladimir led the pagan revolt in 892 and Simeon I, the third son of King Boris, replaced him on the throne. One of the first steps of the new ruler was to move the capital to the Preslav fortified town in the proximity of Pliska. Between 969 and 972 Kievans and Byzantines destroyed the city of Pliska. It had never been rebuilt. The ruins of the city of Pliska lie 3 km north of the modern village of Pliska and attract audience from all over the world.

Historians believe that Pliska was built over the ruins of an ancient Slavic settlement from the 7th century, mostly built of wood and later stone. The Pliska archaeological site, covering the surface of 23 sq km is currently a National Archaeological Reserve. In the Pliska reserve remain the ruins of the Great and the Small Palace, the strong stone fortifications and the Great Basilica /875 AD/, one of the largest Christian places of worship of its time in the Balkans used both as a royal church and as a National Patriarchal Cathedral. The ruins of the Great palace have been preserved perfectly and happen to be one of the most interesting sites nowadays. The throne place was the official building used by the khan council and was also the site of meetings with foreign ambassadors. A throne was positioned in the place with dimensions of 52 m and 26.5 m. It was built by Khan Omourtag (814 – 831) who managed to turn Pliska into a modern and big medieval city. The Little Palace hosted the residence of the khan and his family. It was the most beautiful and outstanding building in Pliska measuring 568 sq m in area. The citadel also hosted the temples, baths, pools, sewerage system, floor heating and the water house. The Great Pliska Basilica, situated in the outer town was the biggest one on the Balkans. It was built by king Boris I. The dimensions of 30 x 100 m make Pliska Basilica one of the biggest and most magnificent monuments of the medieval Bulgarian architecture.

During excavations in the first Bulgarian capital of Pliska archaeologists found a unique object, made of bronze and with the a shape of a rosette with seven rays. Not only its form is remarkable. There are ancient proto-bulgarian signs carved on it, so called runes. Researchers think the rosette represents ancient Bulgarian 12 year cyclical calendar, declared by UNESCO as one of the most precise calendars in the history of mankind. The excavations in the old Bulgarian capitals of Pliska and Preslav are a convincing proof of the fact that it was in the monastery complexes that the new Christian culture in Bulgaria came into being. From the very beginning the monastic community was called upon to fight for the establishment of a coherent ethnic structure by joining the Proto-Bulgarian and Slav population to common rites and religious traditions thus creating and developing an all-Bulgarian culture.