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FOUNDERS OF THE BULGARIAN STATE Memorial Complex in Shumen

  1. Where is it?
  2. How to get to it?
  3. What it symbolize?
  4. Personal impressions.

If one has to name only one reason to visit the town of Shumen, it would certainly be the Monument “Founders of the Bulgarian State”. Majestic, exquisite and somehow mystical – the monument always impresses.

Where is it?

Monument “1300 years of Bulgaria” is located in the area of the Shumen plateau and can be reached on foot or by car.

Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/cCxw6ZEdMY236sA47

How to get to it?

If you choose the pedestrian route, it goes through 1300 steps that start from the city center and more specifically – the Shumen Theatre. Shumen Theatre is called “Vasil Drumev” and is known as the first theatre in Bulgaria. It has rich program of productions for both adults and children. Check their website: https://www.dktshumen.com/bg  where you can find the programme and choose a play to watch during your visit of Shumen. Now back to the Monument “Founders of the Bulgarian State”.  For those who find the 1300 steps too much and would prefer to visit it by car, there is an alternative route starting from the town’s Fire station building. A few turns through the forest (about 6 km) and you will reach a wide parking lot where you can leave your car and take a picturesque path to the monument. The drive up will take no more than 10-15min.

Monument “Founders of the Bulgarian State” or as we locals call it – the Monument – is one of the “100 National Tourist Sites” in Bulgaria and was opened in 1981 in honor of the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state (year 681).

With its impressive size, it can be seen from a distance of 30 km, long before you enter the city.  It is 70m high and 140m long. At its highest point, which is 52m high, there is a sculpture of a lion that weighs 1000 tons. When viewed from a distance, the monument looks like a wreath over the city, and up close it is a passageway through which visitors can go and observe the huge concrete composition. The monument recreates iconic characters and scenes from Bulgarian history, as well as the largest artistic mosaic triptych in Europe (about 500 sqm).

What it symbolize?

When you “enter” the passage, you will centrally see Khan Asparuh, the founder of the Bulgarian state, sticking his sword in the ground and uttering the words “Here will be Bulgaria!” Behind him is a horse – the faithful “friend” of the proto-Bulgarians, and to the left a dog – the sacrificial animal. Above the Khan Asparuh – “Namesake of the Bulgarian Khans”.

At 18m high are the sculptures of Khan Tervel – the diplomat, Khan Krum – the legislator and Khan Omurtag – the builder. Besides them, you will also see Tsar Boris I with a Christian cross above him, a symbol of the acceptance of Christianity as a main religion in Bulgaria, as well as Tsar Simeon I, considered the greatest ruler in the history of Bulgaria, and a reenactment of the Golden Age.

In addition to the impressive figures of rulers from the First Bulgarian State, visitors to the monument will also be able to see the largest mosaic triptych in Europe. Each of the panels is arranged at a different angle and reflects the light differently, making them a perfect work of art. In addition, each of the mosaic panels has its own name and its own symbolism. The first one is called “The Winners” and depicts warriors. The second symbolizes the conversion to Christianity, and the third depicts the brothers Cyril and Methodius and their disciples (Clement, Nahum, Angelarius, Sava and Gorazd) and is dedicated to the scribes and the awakeners. At the top of each mosaic the development of writing is also shown. On the first is the runic writing with features and incisions used by Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. Next is the Glagolitic script of Cyril and Methodius and finally is the Cyrillic script, the script of the entire Slavic world.

The Monument “Founders of the Bulgarian State” is often described as formidable, perhaps because of its rough, truncated forms. The figures are almost intimidating up close, but also somehow majestic. When you first see them, it’s even hard to tell where one figure ends and another one begins. There’s a mystique, a dose of surrealism, a confusion, and suddenly you start to feel quite small compared to what stands before and above you.

Personal impressions

I’ve visited it hundreds of times and yet it inspires me again and again. The views from it are breathtaking, and the wind plays somehow magically and adds to the overall emotion of what you see. No matter how many times you look at the figures, you will see something new and different. I recently I read a post on social media about the Monument and the “author” compared the Monument to a scene from Star Wars. Is it because of its size or the rough shapes, I have no idea, but I am certain it would be a perfect fitting backdrop for a movie, concert or photo shoot.

The monument can be visited by anyone, anytime. There are several paths that lead to it, depending on whether you walk or drive up there. There is a café and Tourist information centre right next to the car park where guided tours can be arranged.