About Asenova Fortress
Asenova Fortress (Asenova Krepost) is a medieval fortress near Plovdiv. Some evidence shows that the area of Asenova Fortress has been inhabited by a variety of people dating back to ancient times, including the Thracians and Romans as well as the Byzantines.
Whilst it is said to have been mentioned in the 11th century and taken by Crusaders, many of the remains of Asenova Fortress today date to the 13th century when they were rebuilt under tsar Ivan Assen II. Having said this, the most intact aspect of Asenova Fortress is a 12th century church.
Asenova Fortress history
Nestled high on a rocky ridge on the left bank of the Asenitsa River in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains, the fortress was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great in the 6th century and grew to prominence during the Middle Ages.
Its location features traces of Neolithic, Ancient Thracian, and Byzantine settlements. It was mentioned as Petrich (not to be confused with today’s town in Southwestern Bulgaria) in an 11th century statute of the nearby Bachkovo Monastery. Asen’s Fortress was conquered by crusaders from the Third Crusade.
It was renovated in 1231 AD during the reign of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II as a stronghold against the Crusanders’ Latin Empire (1204-1261). It is best known for the well preserved 12th-13th century Church of the Holy Mother of God, a two-storey cross-domed single-naved church with a wide narthex and a large rectangular tower, with 14th century murals.
Asenova Fortress was captured by Byzantium after Tsar Ivan Asen II‘s death, and regained by Bulgaria in 1344 under Tsar Ivan Alexander. It was conquered by the Ottomans Turks during their invasion of Bulgaria at the end of the 14th century even though the church remained in use during the following centuries.
The fortress fell into ruins after the Ottoman conquest in the 14th century, with only the Church of the Holy Mother of God surviving. One of the oldest remaining Eastern Orthodox churches, the two-story building features a large rectangular tower and mural paintings that date back to the 14th century.
Restoration work was carried out at the fortress in 1991.
Asenova Fortress today
The only preserved building is that of St Mary of Petrich Church which can be reached via a steep narrow path.
Asen’s Fortress is a major stop on the most popular religious and cultural routes through the Rhodope Mountains. The view from the top of the fortress is breathtaking.
Asen’s fortress is open for visits from Wednesday till Sunday. Guided tours in English are available for an extra cost.
Getting to Asenova Fortress
Asen’s Fortress is located 20 kilometres south of Plovdiv and about three kilometres south of the village of Asenovgrad. Buses run half-hourly from Plovdiv’s Rodopi bus station to Assenovgrad. Trains also run between Plovdiv and Asenovgrad hourly. Visitors can then walk or take a taxi up to the fortress from Asenovgrad.