Medieval fortress of Tsepina
Georgi Yordanov

Medieval fortress of Tsepina


The medieval fortress of Tsepina is located in South Bulgaria, northwest of the village of Dorkovo in the municipality of Rakitovo. According to archaeological research, the region was once home to a Thracian settlement.



Although the fortress is first mentioned in the 4th – 5th century, it was completed in the period between the 11th and the 13th century when it was one of the best fortified fortresses of its time. Its external walls covered an area of 25 decares and there was a castle-citadel built in its highest part. It displayed quite modern defense and water supply facilities for its time.



Three churches have been discovered and investigated in the fortress. In one of them the researchers found marble altar reliefs of Apostles Peter and Paul which are now part of the permanent exhibition of the Hermitage (St. Petersburg). Over the centuries the fortress fell into the hands of various rulers, the most famous of which was despot Aleksiy Slav, Tsar Kaloyan’s nephew. The fate of the Bulgarian population living in the region was connected with it for centuries on end. Archeological and historical finds present Tsepina as a political and administrative centre in the Western Rhodope Mountains.


Today there is a chalet called Tsepina at the foot of the fortress as well as a museum exhibition showing finds from the research work. The entrance to the stronghold is free of charge.


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