The fortress “The Stone”


About 500 m to the west of Oriahovo there is a medieval fortress called "the Stone" by the locals. Its first mention in a written record is in a diploma of the Hungarian king Vladislav (Laslo) IV (1272-1290) of 1283, which concerns a campaign of his father, Stefan V (1270-1272) across the Bulgarian lands in 1266, where it is referred to as "Vrhov". In the so called Parisian military map, compiled between 1388 and 1393 the fortress Azara is marked. Some researchers accept that this is Altselgrad but according to others this is the fortress of Oriahovo. In the chronicle of the Saint Denis Monastery in the narrative about the crusade organized by the Hungarian king Sigismund von Luxemburg (1387-1439) in 1396 a mention of the capture of Oriahovo is made. In the text the fortress is called "Rachova". The same events are also described by Marshal Jean II Le Maingre - Boucicaut, who calls the town "Raco". The fortress is also mentioned by Johannes Schiltberger, another participant in Sigismund's campaign. The square tower preserved to these days has the structure and manner of construction characteristic of the late Middle Ages. This makes Al. Kuzev relate the fortress to the period of XII-XIV c.


In 1968-1971 the National Institute of Monuments of Culture together with District Historical Museum - Vratsa carries out archeological research under the direction of Dora Dimitrova, which establishes the presence of two construction periods. From the first period a wall is discovered, which formed the north-east corner of the fortress, with a length of 6.30 m and width of 1.60 m, superstructure of between 0.50 and 0.75 m, and substructure of 0.50 m. Among the findings the most numerous are the ceramic fragments of various pots: clay pots with admixture of sand, of ceramic or greish-black color; pots from well purified gray clay; dishes with green enamel; 2 fragments of jugs. They are dated back to VIII-X c. Among the metal objects there is a triangle tip of a spear.
The findings and the structure of the walls suggest that the period of the construction should most possibly be the early Middle Ages. This assumption is supported by the fact that the fortress is equally far from the Ostrov and the Hairedin fortifications, which are dated to the same period. In February 2008 a team of the Regional Historical Museum in the town of Vratsa and students volunteers carry out excavations of a medieval necropolis. The site is dated back to the end of IX-X c. It is possible that is the necropolis of the fortress,
The walls from the end of the medieval period are built from stones with solder of white mortar mixed with pebbles. From the second period of construction the best preserved part is an almost square tower with a basis of 6 by 5,50 m, and at a height of about 9 m. The structure is made by stones with a system of timber. The established data make it possible to determine the fortress from the late medieval period had a trapeze design and took an area of about 750 m2. The stratigraphic data reveal that it has been put on fire three times.
Among the ceramics found in the second construction layer pots with tall throats and handles predominate. From the metal objects the most numerous are nails. There are also 8 sheet-like arrow heads, 3 tips of spears, part of a knife, part of a horse rein. In the region of the wooden building 10 stone battle balls are found. Next to the north-west wall a ceramic fragment with a proto-Bulgarian inscription is found. By the localized residential building 2 bone needles are discovered. Proof of the belonging of this layer to the late medieval period are also the copper protuberant coins: two Byzantine from the time of Emperor Isaakios II Angelos (1185-1195) and Emperor Alexios III Komnenos (1185-1203), and one Bulgarian from the time of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371).
The fortress “The Stone” was part of the fortification system of the Bulgarian kingdom in the early Middle Ages. When Bulgaria fell under Byzantine rule in XI c. it was destroyed and then was again restored under the reign of the Asen dynasty. Written records point to the fortress being used as a fortification under the Ottoman rule. The several burnt layers reveal its importance as a fortification structure. It was probably fully destroyed at the end of XIV c. by Michail Vityaz, as Evliya Celebi writes in his Travelodge. The mention of Oriahovo in several sources from the end of XIV – beginning of XV c. denotes its significance in the Middle Ages. Apart from being a border fortress, it takes a strategic position between the Turnovo Kingdom and a region of separatism, which later constitutes the Vidin Kingdom. Especially notable for the importance of the fortress is the fact that through it all anti-Ottoman crusades pass. This is to say that Oriahovo was an important border fortress during the whole period of the late Middle Ages.



The fortress looks inaccessible on the high steep bank of the Danube.
Early in the morning the sun delineates the stronghold with its first rays and embraces its stone walls as if powerful radiance protects it from raids and misfortunes.
Down below, its magnificent dark shadow touches the river with the rugged loopholes of the tower.
The stream flows faster as if to escape from the mighty power of the fortress.
How long has the Magyar been staring at the opposite bank since sunrise?
What mighty force makes his thoughts and eyes concentrate on it and the blood in his veins boil?
He knows for sure - she is over there, in the fortress.
He didn't believe the soldiers' stories until he saw her with his own eyes.
The other day, when his boat reached the bank at a lance's throw, he managed to look at her and his eyes rested on her for good.
They called her Militsa (the kind one).
And who could resist her kindness?
The first thing she saw were her feet, white and light, they were touching the grass and the dew was washing her narrow ankles. Then his look swept over her body wrapped in a silk gown.
It trembled and twisted gently by her light movements, and her straw-colored hair followed it.
For a moment it swayed away like wavy foam, then returned onto her shoulders, and the moment the young lass stretched her white arms forward and upward, her hair poured down her neck and bosom like golden rain.
Nor could he forget the Slav girl's laughter.
Two winters have passed but it is still here, in his head - he still hears it.
How many times has he sent his men since then?; how many and what gifts has he sent? - a hundred oxen with curved horns, wine and honey, jars with gold coins! Up to no avail - the boritarkan refused to give her to him.
Hatred and refusal was what the Bulgarian sent him in return.
The time has come. Many a sleepless night has the Magyar been waiting and his final decision is to attack the fortress.
His men are talking about this day and night. It is peril that awaits those who dare access the Bulgarian.