News > Bulgarian Armenians > Armenian church excavation work continues in Tarnovo
Excavation work is being continued in a location believed to be the site of a medieval Armenian church in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, 240 kilometres in the northeast of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The city with about 70 thousand inhabitants is the administrative centre of the Veliko Tarnovo Province. It is often referred as the "City of the Tsars", as it has been the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire and the location where the first Bulgarian constitution was ratified in 1879.
A city with unique architecture and picturesque location on Yantra River, Veliko Tarnovo has been a cosmopolitan city with many merchants belonging to different ethnicities and religions living in special neighborhoods. Considerable Armenian, Catholic and Jewish population has been living there besides the dominant Bulgarian population.
The 17th century Armenian church, which has been uncovered during the recent excavations, is believed to be built on the location of a 15th century Catholic Church.
In May 2009 several golden items including gold coins (ducats) were found by archeologist Hitko Vachev and his team of 20 researchers. Some of the other findings were golden rings, earrings, altar with indented wooden cross, lots of coins, ceramics and ritual utensils used during mass services.
Archeologist Vachev is very much familiar with this site, where he has done several preliminary works 20 years ago and now has returned to complete the unfinished task.
The local authorities and Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture are taking the necessary steps to include the Armenian church in Veliko Tarnovo as a registered historic and cultural monument.
According to written sources, in the beginning the same church has belonged to the Catholic church, named "Our Lady Assumption" and was built at the end of the 15th century by traders coming from Dubrovnik, modern Croatia. Afterwards, the land was purchased by the Armenians living in Bulgaria, who, in the 17th century and on the ruins of the older church, built the Armenian church.
Excavations in the location revealed stones with Armenian letters and ornaments (see above photo).
The Armenian Church in this city has survived up to the 19th century, but has ceased thereafter to exist due to unknown reasons. A large cemetery (necropolis) also existed next to the church.
1) Stone inscription found in the excavated parts of the Armenian Church in Tarnovo.
2) Panoramic view of Veliko Tarnovo on the river Yanra river (Wikipedia).