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Issue 26

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Madara and Its Horseman

Emiliyana Stoynova is a student in journalism at Shumen University in Shumen Bulgaria.

Madara
Photo from Klearchos Kapoutsis
The most remarkable monument in this Bulgarian archeological reserve is the unique rock relief called "The Madara Horseman.


 

Madara is called “the Bulgarian Troy” because of the richness of archeological monuments discovered there going back several thousand years, located near the village of Madara in northeastern Bulgaria, about 20 km from the city of Shumen, where I am a student.

The most remarkable monument in this Bulgarian archeological reserve is the unique rock relief called “The Madara Horseman.”

It is a good example of ancient Bulgarian art and symbolizes the power and greatness of the early Bulgarian state, founded in 681 A.D.

It is the only rock relief of its kind in Europe going back to the early 8th century. You can see it here: The Madara Horseman.

The “Madara Horseman” was made a World Heritage Monument by the United Nations in 1979. The relief shows a rider on a horse, followed by a dog. The rider is thrusting a spear into a lion lying at the horse’s feet.

This symbolizes the defeat of the enemy, maybe in a great battle of the time. Some historians think the rider is Khan (King) Tervel. He reigned from 700 to 721. It is cut into the side of a cliff almost 100 meters high, and is 23 meters above the ground. It is 2.6 m in height, and 3 meters wide, so the figures it shows are life-size.

These ancient cliffs, which many Bulgarians think have some magical power, are located about half way between the archeological reserve of Pliska, the first Bulgarian capital (681 A.D.), and the second Bulgarian capital, at Preslav.

The inscriptions near it are written in ancient Greek and tell about the heroic deeds of three Bulgarian khans – Tervel, Krum and Omurtag. They describe the history of the relations between the young Bulgarian kingdom and the Byzantine state between 705 and 801 A.D.

In 2008, there was a national survey in Bulgaria to determine what should be the international symbol of Bulgaria, and the winner was “The Madara Horseman.” So it will be depicted on the first Bulgarian Euro coin in the near future. Bulgarians are very proud of and fascinated by this unique national monument. Whenever I go there, I always feel its strange magic. It’s really great.


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