First Bulgarian Kingdom

Veliki Preslav – The golden capital of the Tsar Simeon

The construction of the new capital of Bulgaria Veliki Preslav was seen as a peak that changed and glorified the name of Bulgaria.

When talking about Veliki Preslav, a large part of the public still have the impression that the city was built entirely by Tsar Simeon. In fact, this is only partly true. Although the Bulgarian ruler carried out a number of reforms and changed its appearance, there had previously been a settlement built on it, which was part of the defense system of the Bulgarian state.

The fortress was located on a high terrace above the mouth of the river Tisza. After Tsar Simeon decided to build his new capital and give such splendour so that it would become a worthy rival of Constantinople, the Bulgarian ruler began with the most pressing matter - the expansion of its territory.

The territory of the old settlement was significantly enlarged. A new outer fortified belt in the northern part was added to the fortified part of the city. The entire extended part of the city was added to the old fortification. To obtain this, the wall in this part was demolished and then rebuilt to cover a larger area. In this way, the inner city of Preslav was not divided into old and new parts, but merged into a homogeneous whole.

The southern original part of the city was protected by a wall built of solid stone masonry. The original fortress had round towers in its corners. With these features, it stood close to the fortress system of the Inner City in Pliska. The southern fortress gate of the Inner City of Preslav is smaller than the famous northern gate of the city - the gate in the northern extension of the city.

The traditions of Pliska live in the urban structure of Preslav. there is an undoubted analogy between the two in their most general principles. Their territory is divided between two concentric fortress lines, which outline the outer and inner city. But while the outer town of Pliska is surrounded by earthen fortifications, Preslav has a stone fortress on both the outer and inner fortifications.

The outer town of Pliska covers an area of 23 square kilometers, and the outer town of Preslav is only about 5 square kilometers. This comparison, together with the difference in the construction of the outer fortification, shows a significant evolution. The norms of military democracy, which engage the whole society, have been lost in Preslav. The territory of the city was no longer intended for the large horde of the Khan, but only for the ruler and his closest people. Preslav was now only a princely residence, rather than a central ongal of the conquering people. It is tucked away in a foothill valley so that its back leans in the mountain slopes and faces northeast, that is, towards the old dwellings of the khan in Pliska. Its outer fortress wall runs along the left bank of the Tisza coming out of the gorge of the mountain range. It then climbed the ridge of the first mountain hill so that the white ridges could be seen far from the fields to the north. From the north, the fortress wall ran almost in a straight line along the wide back of a high hill before descending towards the valley of Tisza therefore closing the outer ring of the fortress. According to the plan, the outer city of Preslav has the shape of a pentagon. The Inner City has its back and side at the foot of the high mountain slope.

Veliki Preslav changed its appearance from a large fortress, residence and camp of the army (as was Pliska) into a typical residence for the ruler. Preslav is intended to gather within its walls the highest-ranked nobles and close relatives of the ruler. It was built in parallel as a spiritual centre and cradle of culture and writing, where educators, writers and book authors gathered. It is no coincidence that large monastery complexes were being built in Preslav, where hard work was in full swing. White clay pottery was being produced, books were being copied and translated, and new volumes were being written.

Tsar Simeon displayed his greatness and striving for the development of spiritual culture by building the so-called "Golden Church of Simeon", which has an atypical architectural plan for the time, and which was one of the wonders of his new capital.

The fortress walls of the city did not cover the settlement area. To the east, northeast and north, outside the outer fortress wall, stretched many separate mansions, monasteries and churches. Gradually they showed that after the establishment of the residence and the concentration of political and spiritual life, the territory of the city expanded many times as a result of Tsar Simeon’s approach - clergy, laity and military, who chose to be close to their ruler and enjoyed his privileges and generosity. Large funds were invested in the construction of these houses, estates and monasteries, which turned the whole of Veliki Preslav and its surroundings into a beautiful and breathtaking place. This was the goal of Tsar Simeon when he welcomed foreign ambassadors, especially those coming from Byzantium. He wanted to show his rivals that Bulgaria was not inferior either in power or beauty, and that he rightfully bore the title of king.

The craft workshops, and therefore the craft settlements, stood on the outskirts of the palace city. Most civic buildings, churches and monasteries were located in the lower, flat part of the outer city on the terrace next to the Tisza Valley. They were not built in direct contact with each other, but were spread on a considerable distance with spaces of untouched land in between. A large monastery complex was located west of the inner city on the slope of the mountain hill Zabuite.

After its establishment as a capital under Simeon, it transformed into one of the centers of Bulgarian spirituality and culture, with the establishment of the Preslav Literary School and the development of crafts like ceramic production, painting or sculpture. The city quickly established itself and its name spread in the medieval world.

Guests and visitors of the Historical Park can see the magnificent examples of their greatness, with the reconstructions from the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom and the greatness of the golden age of Tsar Simeon. Touch the glory of the past, stepping on the floors of the majestic, decorated buildings from that distant time. You will be able to fully experience those feelings when the distant envoys and the worthy Bulgarian leaders stood before Veliki Preslav and admired its majesty and beauty.

10/21/2020