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Alfatar keeps traces of its centuries-old past

Photo: BTA archive

А very old settlement in Northeastern Bulgaria,‎‏ ‏Alfatar is mentioned in the ‎historical chronicles from the end of the 16th century with the names Alfatar, ‎Akhlatar and even Iflatar. Part of its cultural and historical heritage is preserved ‎to this day, and monuments from different eras attract the attention of both ‎researchers and curious tourists.‎

Near today's town of Alfatar (located 20 km south of Silistra) there are four Roman-Byzantine and two ‎medieval Bulgarian fortresses. Near the village of Tsar Asen, the fifth largest ‎fortress was built during the First Bulgarian Kingdom (681 – 1018), we learn ‎from the conversation of Nezabravka Kirova - BNR correspondent in Silistra, ‎with Prof. Georgi Atanasov, PhD in history. According to him, the fortress ‎near the village of Tsar Asen stretched over 45 acres and had urban ‎infrastructure, with 4 churches and a citadel. ‎
"A remarkable monument with a Glagolitic inscription of Manasius Inok was ‎discovered there. Not to mention the numerous necropolises, the settlements ‎from the Roman and mediaeval era. But what visitors can see is the Thracian-‎Roman rock sanctuary next to the village of Kutlovitsa. Two dry rivers ‎Kanagjol and Malak Kanagjol or Taban pass through the municipality of ‎Alfatar. It is there, close to exceptional natural phenomena, that the sanctuary ‎above the village of Kutlovitsa is located. It marks the beginning of a large ‎Thracian-Roman rock Kulut center dedicated to the deity Zalmoxis." ‎

There are about 50 rock monasteries along the river Kanagjol, dating ‎from the late 9th and the early 10th century. They were abandoned in the ‎‎11th century, we learn from Prof. Atanasov, who adds:‎

‎"Not far from Alfatar, the two rock monasteries in the Dry River area are fully ‎accessible and to some extent socialized with signposts. One of the churches is ‎very large and unfinished, because apparently during the Pecheneg invasions, ‎the monks, as well as the inhabitants of the neighboring fortress, left this area. ‎Visitors can see an original, authentic interior and exterior as it was in the 10th ‎century. They can also see dozens of drawings, signs and graffiti from this era. ‎There were large groups of rock monasteries near the village of Tsar Asen with ‎a characteristic monastic organization.”‎

At the beginning of the 16th century, Alfatar was registered as the largest ‎purely Christian settlement in the area. Its population reached 600 families - ‎or nearly 8,000 people - more than some cities at the time. But part of the ‎population that founded today's Alfatar left the region during the Russo-‎Turkish war and now these old Alfatars live in Ukraine, we learn from Prof. ‎Atanasov. 

Nowadays, the emblem of Alfatar is the Holy Trinity Church in ‎the town.‎

‎"It is remarkable! Because it was built by the leading architecture-building ‎school of Dryanovo. Master craftsman was Genyo Belchev, Kolyo Ficheto's ‎teacher, with whom they built the Dryanovo Monastery. This is one of the first ‎tall churches in Dobruja , in Northeastern Bulgaria. It was completed in 1846 ‎and consecrated."‎

The troubled times of the Crimean War and the raging plague ‎made Alfatar residents strengthen the village both spiritually and physically. ‎Traces of this have survived to this day.‎

‎"At the four corners of Alfatar they placed large stone crosses to ward off the ‎evil forces of disease. And the village is surrounded by a thorn rampart and a ‎moat in front of it, so that the plague could not enter Alfatar. And now these ‎crosses are maintained, visitors can see parts of them.”‎

Some sources say the name Alfatar means the Golden Gate or Gate from ‎Dobruja to the interior of the Ottoman Empire. Prof. Atanasov believes that the ‎last version sounds the most likely since because of the battles between the ‎Ottoman garrisons and Vlad the Impaler, the inhabitants of the villages on the ‎banks of the Danube - Vetren, Srebarna and Popina moved to the southern ‎part of the region, namely in today's Alfatar. ‎
See also:

Compiled by Veneta Nikolova (based on an interview of Nezabravka Kirova, BNR correspondent in Silistra)
Editing by Elena Karkalanova
English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: Nezabravka Kirova, BTA (archive)

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