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Current Name
Ancient Name
Polis Kastilon?
Medieval Name
Kastritsi, Macrocastro
History of the name

Procopius of Caesarea reported in 6th c. AD for a fortification North of Odessos named Polis Castellon. The proximity of names Castellon – Kastritsi with the same meaning in Latin and Greek suggests that probably it goes about the same fortress. The fortress’ and port medieval name is known from Italian sea-fare maps and portolani dated 12th – 15th centuries. Its origin is from Greek word kastron – a military camp. In the description of Vladislav III Jagielo campaign it is mentioned as Macrocastro, i.e. the long, big fortress.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Balkan peninsula, Western Coast of Black sea
Administrative subdivision
Varna Region, North-East Region
The fortress is situated on a small jutting in the sea called Cape Sveti Yani (Sveti Ivan), which closes Varna bay from North. It is located 8 km. North of Varna, within the nowadays Government residence Euxinograd, a former Palace of Bulgarian Tsars.
Foudation Date
Single artifacts of Greek and Roman pottery and coins and a Hellenistic grave of late 4th - 3rd c. BC helps to assume that probably during Hellenistic (4th – 1st centuries BC) and maybe in the beginning of Roman (1st – 2nd centuries) period, there was a little settlement established on the cape but it was of no great importance. Its name is unknown. The late Antique fortress was built c. 5th – early 6th c. AD and abandoned in the beginning of 7th c. AD. It was reconstructed for the needs of Bulgarian Kingdom only during the second half of 13th centuryand abandoned again in early 15th century.
Current condition
Once abandoned in 15th century the fortress remained deserted. In early 19th c. on the site there was a established the Sveti Dimitar monastery, which later was abandoned too. Today it is part of the park in the Governmental residence Euxinograd. The construction of large breakwater in the 1970ies - 1980ies contributed to immerse with sand the Ancient and Medieval port situated in the South-West bay of the cape. Today there is a vast sand beach over the once busy port.

Procopius of Caesarea mentioned about a fortress named Polis Castellon reconstructed by Emperor Justinian I and located North of Odessos. The name is the Latin transcription of the Greek one of the site: Kastritsi. Konstantin Ireček, a Czech historian who wrote a lot about Bulgarian history and ancient geography of the Balkans, erroneously suggested that Kastritsi is the fortress located on the hill south of the modern Village of Kranevo, where in fact was the medieval Cranea/Kranea.
The fortress Kastritsi is situated on the sea coast, some 8 km. North-East of Varna, on the Cape Sveti Yani, known now as Euxinograd, at the North end of Varna bay. South-West of it there is a shallow bay well protected from North-East winds. Until early 20th century the fortress’ ruins were known among local population with the Ottoman name Chatal Tash Kalesi, after the spilt rock located once at a distance of 70 meters in the bay, then at a depth of 5 meters. Furthermore it was apparent that the wall protected in direction East – West the small cape – Sveti Yani, which provided another name for the fortress during the Ottoman period Ay Yani Kalesi. In the late 19th - beginning of 20th century the fortress terrain was fashioned as park most of the walls were cleaned from loose material and fallen stones and there were shaped alleys over the ancient site.
The name of fortress Kastritsihas been marked on several sea-fare maps dated between 14th and 18th centuries. There is no doubt that the origin of its name comes from Greek word kastron – a military camp. The late Antique fortress was destroyed during the Avars- and Slavs combined campaign in AD 614 when the latest discovered emissions of coins by Emperor Heraclius are dated.
With the penetration of Italian merchants in the Black sea region during the 13th century above the comfortable and well protected from North - East winds port in the bay situated South-West of Cape Sveti Yani was erected a new fortress. The ruins of the Late Antique one were put into use for the construction works and the new fortification overlapped it. That is how the site North of Varna emerged as an important port of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
It is likely that c. 1369 it was ceded by Tsar Ivan Alexander, together with Varna, to Despot Dobrotitsa and became part of the Dobroudja Principality/ Despotate. According the Chronicle by Callimachus, which described the crusade campaign of Vladislav III Jagielo to Varna in 1444, the troops of the king after Kavarna took “Macropolis, Kaliakrum, Galata, Varna and many other cities deserted by the enemy. Furthermore it mentions that the city [Varna] lies between two rocky hills: on one of which is situated Galata (nowadays Galata quarter if Vrana), while on the other one is Macropolis (nowadays Euxinograd Residencial area). The text does not mentioned Kastritsi, but Macropolis, while on the other hand the location of both fortresses is the same – the North end of Varna bay, opposite to Galata. In this case the location of Galata is out of question – on the top of the high rocky cape in Varna bay South end. Less clear is the name Macropolis. Bulgarian archaeologist and historian Alexander Kuzev suggested that this is in fact a distortion of the name Kastritsi. No fortress named Macropolis is known from any other written source, portolan or sea-fare map. In this chronicle the name of the fortress Kastritsi is obviously distorted and probably it is due to the exterior of the fortress itself with over 200 meters long north wall – Macro, in the sense of long, and in the form of a city – polis. In a later period the same name was given to the vicinity around the ruined monastery Sveti Dimitar, located in short distance South-west from the ruins of Kastritsi. Local peasants called the pastures around the monastery the macro pastures, meaning the long ones. The name of Kastritsi fortress does not appear in the letter sent from Nicopolis to the garrisons in castles along the road of military campaign of Vladislav III Jagielo to Varna in 1444. It mentioned the nearby to Varna fortresses of Petrich and Galata, and the latter as it was already noted above is located opposite to the fortress Kastritsi on the South end of Varna bay. Probably the reason is that the fortresses mentioned by various authors contemporaries north of Varna were taken by the Christian armv of Vladislav III on November 8 and 9, 1444, i.e. one day before the battle near Varna, although these grounds raise many doubts from long time. The armies of king Vladislav hardly should have been able to take for such a short period big fortresses as Kavarna and Kaliakra. In fact only Laonikos Chalkokondyles writes that the Peonies (Hungarians) attacked and destroyed the walls of Kaliakra, without mentioning any other fortresses. Most likely the garrisons of those fortresses were aware of the fate of those fortresses taken by the armies of Vladislav during their advance and deserted their strongholds. This is what wrote about in their chronicles the contemporary 15th century historians Andrea di Palazzio and Callimachus: that the Christians conquered and took with armies Macropolis, Galata, Varna and many other seaside cities deserted by the Turks. However, they called Kastritsi Macropolis (the long city) apparently because there was none who could tell them the fortress actual name. For the other mentioned fortresses we may accept the suggestion that local people opened the gates and knights were able to learn the actual names of theses strongholds at that moment. Why it does not happen with Kastritsi, which name is otherwise noted in the 15th century sea charts?
It may be assumed that the fortress Kastritsi was abandoned earlier in time, sometime in the very beginning of 15th century and by the time of Vladislav campaign there was neither defending garrison, nor local population and a functioning city in fact.
Following the defeat of Baized I (1382–1402) near Ankara (1402) by Timur and the ensuing civil war in the Ottoman Empire, the Back Sea coast came under the rule of Emir Süleyman. Shortly before these events, on February 2, 1399, Varna the then capital of the Dobroudja Despotate was pillaged by the insurgent Tatars led by their chieftain Aktav. It is not unlikely that during the campaign of Akta, the fortress Kastritsi should have been pillaged too. However life in the fortress was not interrupted as in numerous buildings are found significant number silver Ottoman coins: akçes and mangars minted until 1404 by Baized’s son – Emir Süleyman.
Meanwhile, obviously benefitting from the decline of Ottoman influence on the Western Coast of Black Sea and of the destruction of Dobroudja despotate, during the turmoil of the Ottoman civil war Genoa expanded its influence in the region. In 1402 the Italian republic dispatched a garrison in Kaliakra led by commander Bartolommeo di Gramaudi. The same happened two years later with the fortress Galata on the South bank of Varna bay, which was held from June 6, 1404 to July 16, 1405 by Genoese troops headed by Salagruso di Negro. According gthe Bulgarian historian Iv. Sakazov a Genoese garrison was dispatched in Kastritsi too. However, the archaeological findings until the moment, except for some so-called Tataro-Genoese type of coins, do not confirm this thesis.
It is not unlikely that Kastritsi suffered during the campaign on the Balkans of one of the pretenders for the Ottoman throne – Emir Mûsa (1402–1413), who passed from the North Black Sea through Dobroudja to initiate military action against his brother Süleyman. According the Treaty with the Christian League from February 1403 Süleyman was still holding the Western Black Sea coast, but most likely that South of the Balkan Mountains.
Taking advantage of the Ottoman civil war and the disappearance of the Dobrudja Despotate, the Walachian Voivode Mircea the Elder (1387–1418) annexed to his possessions modern Dobroudja with Dorostorum (now Silistra) and Kaliakra. It is assumed that Kaliakra was under his rule since 1404. The Genoese have obviously been ousted and in the fortress a Walachian garrison was established instead of them. According a commercial document dated 1412 the fortress and its vicinity were under the rule of Walachian logothete Baldwin. It is very likely that in 1404 the fortress Kastritsi has been taken too. Whether there was an Ottoman garrison at the time it is hard to state, but it is fact that within the fortress there were found huge amounts of Ottoman silver and copper coins: akçes and mangars (over 800 pieces until now) minted by Murad І and mostly by Baized І. Similar situation is confirmed for Cape Kaliakra. Indirect information about the abandonment of Kastritsi in 1404 is the fact that this is the last year of akçes mint by emir Süleyman found in the fortress territory. Probably in 1404 was hidden the treasure of svereal Bulgarian silver ornaments along with akçes of Sultan Baized І (1389-1402). Apparently the population left the fortress and moved to Varna or set a new settlement on the plateau West of Kastritsi later known with the slightly changed name Kestrich.
It is a fact that in November 1444 the Christian armies of Vladislav III Jagielo reached Macropolis, Galata and Varna, but did not took the fortresses as these were already deserted by the enemy. However they called Kastritsi Macropolis (the long city) apparently because they did not know the exact name of the fortress, abandoned some 40 years before, of which only the 200 meters long walls were still preserved.
Over 3 500 coins found during the several years of excavations illustrated the ups and downs of the history of that fortified Black Sea town- and port through the centuries. The earliest ones were issued in Odessos (Varna) in 3rd – 2nd centuries BC; there is a Roman sestertius dated 1st century AD and several coins of 2nd -3rd c. AD, issued in Marcianopolis (Devnya), an ancient city some 30 km West from Odessos. Among ancient coins dominate those from the second half of 4th to early 7th centuries issued by the following emperors: Licinius, Constantine the Great, Tiberius I, Anastasius, Justin, Justinian, MauriciusTiberius II, Phocas and Heraclius, whos latest issue is of AD 614. The period between 12th – 14th centuries is rich with coins of Byazantine Emperors: Michael VIII Palaiologos, Andronikos II Palaiologos, Andronikos III Palaiologos, and John VI Palaiologos. Some coins come from the Despotate of Epirus (John Orsini, 1323 – 1335). The Second Bulgarian Kingdom is represented with emissions of almost all Bulgarian Tsars: of Constantine Tikh Asen, Theodore Svetoslav, Michael II Shishman, Ivan Alexander, Ivan Shishman, as well as local imitations of Byzantine coins of 13th – 14th centuries. A significant number of the coins, discovered in the fortress of Kastritsi were issued by rulers of the 14th century Dobroudja Despotate (Dobrotitsa/Kaliakra and John Dobrotitsa, Dorostorum). One Stephan Dusan groshen with countermark are found. A large number of Ottoman silver and copper coins;akçes and mangars of Murad I, Bayased I and Emir Süleyman (until 1410). There were found also coins dated to the end of 14th century issued by Bey Sarhkhan and Mameluk rulers. Onsite were found Walachian copper and silver coins: of Mircea the Elder (1386-1418); of 13th c. and Tatar rulers; issues of the Venetian Republic as well. West of the fortress in 2006 was discovered a treasure of 51 gold issues of the Niecean Emperor John III Doukas Vatatzes (1221-1254). Another treasure consisting of silver ear rings, finger rings and buttons, deposited in a small pot was found near the fortress wall in a house located North of the church. On the premise floor there were found 17 silver akçes of sultan Bayezid I (1389-1402).


Archaeological excavations undertook since 2004 and still ongoing, confirm that the area of the fortress Kastritsi was inhabited during Hellenistic and Roman periods until 4th century AD, when probably it was site of an out-of-town Roman villa (vila suburbana). The Late Antique fortress was built probably during the 5th century and according findings of coins it was destroyed during the Avars incursion in AD 614. During the second half of 13th century the ancient walls lying in ruins were repaired and reconstructed at some places and some new towers were also built.
The North fortress wall is over 200 meters long, at some locations up to 4 meters high and between 1.8 and 2 m. thick. It protects entirely the cape in East – West direction. There are two periods of construction works with carved stone blocks arranged in regular rows fixed by with pink mortar. The wall is still available up to a height of 2 meters. Several repairs are seen in heights, some rows of stones being aligned with broken bricks and tiles, alternated with rows of crushed stones and white mortar. On the curtain wall there are five circular bastion type towers located, with approximate diameter of 3.5 meters. In the Eastern end on a gap were upgraded one rectangular (4х4.5 m) and one triangular (7 m long with base 5.5 m) towers. Near the East end of the wall the internal space is barred by stern preserved up to 2.5 meters height, which is 1.6–1.8 m thick. The wall is attached by a gap to the North fortress wall and lies in direction Southeast-Northwest. It surrounds part of the strongly fortified zone (a citadel?). Its defense has been reinforced by two frectangular in shape towers from North and West with dimensions 2.8х3 m. In the rectangular tower masonry fragments from amphorae dated 13th century, as well as bottoms of sgraffito dishes have been discovered, which makes its dating sure.
The fortress main gate is located almost in the middle of the North wall. It is 3 meters wide, while the passage is 3.2 meters deep. The smaller gate is 2 meters wide and is located in the Western part of the north wall. There is also thickening of the wall in order to allow arch of the gate and implement wooden stairs. Westward the wall ends with an included in the angle circular tower with diameter 3.5 meters. From there Southward emerges the West fortress wall, which has many repairs and implectons of stones with white mortar and at some places clay has been used as fixing material. Because of the natural rock protection and the sea the wall here is only about 1.3 m thick. South of the angle circular tower there is short, 8 m. long transverse wall reaching the beach. Its foundations are in the sand and the rock just above the ancient surf. This wall seems to have restricted movement along the coast and the harbor. In the fortress North-Eastern angle there was discovered a big corner tower-donjon with over 2 m thick walls, which overlies an ancient circular tower. The walls were built out of carved and crushed stones with clay binder, the rows being aligned with props system. A room once decorated with frescoes on the walls has been shaped inside the tower ground floor. Obviously this was the tower chapel. The last period of fortification for the donjon consists of additional inclined buttress wall, thus making the thickness of the tower foundation really impressive: four meters.
South and East of the tower the medieval residential area was situated, around a small square with five entering streets. One of the streets begins from the end of the excavated West wall at a place where Shkorpil indicates for location of a small door (postern) leading to the beach at the foot of the cliffs. It is about two meters wide and passing on the south side of the church reaches Northward to the square. North of the church it is joined by an even narrower street, which is impasse on the West side. The third street is also impasse on West and reaches the wall, where a barbican was constructed in order to collect water from the fortress and drained on the streets, which suggests that the wall was built simultaneously with the planning of the street and the buildings around it. At the end of that street, on its both sides there was a workshop for small bronzes, which served also as a shop, where large quantities of molds and a building with bronze foundry and furnace have been discovered. There, many bronze objects of various purposes were found among them a large matrix for Holy books decoration with the image of Christ Pantocrator (Almighty), as well as bronze scrap and melts. The buildings on streets in East-West direction are located chainlike on their both sides, and individually on pairs toward the square and the fortress wall. Almost all buildings are split or lobed by plan. The buildings dimensions are significant, some of them being 16-18 m long and 6-8 m wide. The walls of most houses are 0.6-0.8 m thick and built of carved and crushed stones and clay binder. In many of them, inside some rooms have short walls serving probably to support the stairways to the second floor. The premises have one or two vaulted ovens with diameter of about one meter. There are premises without ovens, but in such ones there have been discovered fragments of amphorae and large deep pits suggesting that these were used for storage needs. Apparently in the ground floors residential and storage premises were separated. Some of the buildings have shaped large doorways on the street side, some reaching width of 2 m.
In almost all buildings, regardless of their dimensions one major reconstruction has been traced: two floor levels. On both levels same type of ceramics and coins dated mid-14th century was discovered. Some walls were upgraded with superstructure after their demolition, some gates were blocked and other opened on their place on the top level. Some of the streets have two levels of pavement too. Probably an earthquake in mid-14th century caused significant damages of most of the buildings and it required their subsequent rebuilding. The life in the fortified town continued until early 15th century, when its inhabitants abandoned it under unknown sircumstances


Today: In the bay in direction Southward there is a pier for small boats and yachts constructed. The bay West of the fortress, where the ancient port was, is silted with sand accumulated due to the breakwater constructed during the 70s of 20th century. As a result, today in the bay harbor is shaped a beach almost 70 m wide, which covered entirely the Late Antique- and Medieval port.
Past: The harbor of Medieval Kastritsi is situated in a deep, open to South-West bay, situated at the North end of the large bay of Varna. The water below the high cliffs coast was deep between 5 and 8 m. In the first known loci for the Black Sea: Compass in sailing dated 1296, no intermediate port was marked North of Varna up to Karbona (Balchik or Kavarna). Kastritsi appears only on later portolani and sea-fare charts after the beginning of 14th century. Its location is very well defined by the description of two anonymous Italian portolani from 15th and 16th centuries compiled from earlier data of 14th century. In the first one it was stated that ‘from Mauro Polo (Black cape) to Galata there are 15 miles. From Rosito (in the Southern part of Varna bay, in the area called now Karantinata) to Varna from West to East there are 6 miles. Varna is city and to Kaliakra there are 50 miles. From Varna to Kastrici from North-East to South-West there are 10 miles. From Kastrici to Karvona there are 10 miles,’ while in the second one it was noted: ‘from Rosito to Varna in direction from West to East there are 6 miles. Varna is city and to Kaliakra there are 50 miles. From Varna to Kastrici in direction North-East there are 20 miles. From Kastrici to Karvona there are 30 miles.’ Both descriptions indicated that Kastritsi was located immediately North of Varna, before next larger port – Karvuna. Despite the difference in distances in both portolani, it is clear that Kastritsi is closer to Varnathan Karvuna/Karvona. In a Genoese portolan from 14th century Kastritsi was listed among the ports in the Dobroudja Despotate: To Bulgaria or Dobrudja [belong]: Lavitza, Galata, Varna, Ketritsi (i. e. Kastritsi), Gavarna, Kaliakra, Laksulitiko, Pangalia, Kostana, Zinavarda, Groseo, Straiko, Lapera … Solina, Likostroma.
The port of Kastritsi is marked on dozens of European sea-fare charts from 14th – 17th centuries with slight differences in spelling – Kastritza, Kartitsi, Ketrizi, Kastrizi, Kastro, Kastri, Kastra, Katria and other. For the first time it was marked on the curve north end of Varna bay on the map of Petrus Visconti dated 1311.
The port of Kastritsi probably continued to be in use occasionally also in the sixteenth century because the Ports Law for the harbors on Nortern Black Sea coast issued by Sultan Süleyman I mentioned together with Varna, Balchik and Kaliakra, as well Kersich. However, in the fortress there have not been found so far artifacts of that period. It is possible that trade activities took place Westward, in the next bay, southward Varna, where the monastery of Sveti Dimitar was located in 19th c. and where at a later period was located the harbor of Euxinograd residence.


The fortress exploration is ongoing. Fortress walls have been excavated and conservation works have been undertaken too. They are preserved up to heights of 3-5 m, with several semi-circular, square and triangular towers. In the North-West corner a tower-donjon is located, while on the North wall there are discovered two gates. Several streets with their chain-like distribution of residential and commercial buildings are well investigated too. A square with a small one nave church was also discovered, as well as a small monastery near the West wall. The fortress wall are dated to Late Antique period (5th-6th c. AD) with a large reconstruction and additions in Medieval times (13-14 c.), while all available buildings belong to Medieval Period (13-early15th c.). 

Medieval Sites

The artifacts discovered in the fortress Kastritsi are on display in the exposition of the Archaeological museum – Varna, which works all the year round. Some of the interesting finds are on display also in the museum located in a building of the Government Residence which during the summer season has access for the general public after an appointment in advance. The fortress walls, many mostly Medieval residential and commercial buildings of 13th-early15th c. as well as several streets and town squares are accessible to the public amongst old trees and other plants of a fancy park. It was especially designed in late 19th c. by eminent French and Czech specialists in botany and park landscape. The excavations of Late Antique and Medieval residential buildings and workshops uncovered various metal objects: arrowheads, spears, knives, craft tools and many more. Very interesting is one entirely preserved 14th c. bronze lock shaped as a dog and especially the fragments of a big bronze mould for minting of silver icons with the image of Christ Pantocrator, as well as metal crosses - engolpions, some church utensils, from both periods of fortress’ existence: 4th – 6th c. AD and 13th – 15th centuries.
Almost in all residential buildings have been found ceramics: jars, jugs, pitchers, amphorae of 13th - 14th centuries. The luxurious pottery is glazed and richly decorated with various patterns. The largest number of vessels (bowls, plates, and jugs) has the so-called “sgraffito” decoration, which was mostly locally produced. Much rarely imported Byzantine pottery and fragments of glasses and jugs have been found. Many of the vessels have monograms: Palaiologus, Dimitar, Michael, and Prodrom. They are almost exclusively dated in the 14th century. There are also various tools, implements, utensils, decorations and other objects of everyday life discovered in the fortress on display in the museum in the residence. Within the park there is also a rich in exotic plants winter glasshouse.

Textual Sources

Хр. Коларов. Хрониката на Калимах – важен извор за варненската битка през 1444 г. – ИВАД, VІ (ХХІ), 1970.
Италиански портулан” (препис от ХV в. по оригинал от началото на ХІV в.). – П. Коледаров. Мореплавателни карти, наръчници и други свидетелства за международното значение на Втората българска държава. – Сб. България в света от древността до наши дни. София, 1979, 293–294.
Анонимен италиански портулан (съставен вероятно през ХІV в., но известен по препис от ХV в.). – Б. Димитров. България в средновековната морска картография ХVІ–ХVІІ в. София, 1984, 37.
„Венециански портулан” (ХІV в.). – В: Б. Димитров. България в средновековната морска картография ХVІ–ХVІІ в. София, 1984, 34.
Б. Димитров. България в средновековната морска картография (ХІV–ХVІІ век). София, МCMLXXXIV, с. 21, № № 3–6,  9–11, 13–21, 25, 26, 28, 30, 34, 35 до 70.


Иречек, К. Пътувания по България. София, 1974, 896.
Коларов, Хр. Хрониката на Калимах – важен извор за Варненската битка от 1444 г. – ИНМВ, ІV (ХХІV), 1973, 247–248.
Ал. Кузев. Кранея и Кастрици. – В: Български средновековни градове и крепости. Варна, 1981, 286-293.
Г. Атанасов. Добруджанското деспотство. В. Търново, 2009, 238.
В. Плетньов. За средновековния пристан Росо/Росито/Росико. – Сб. Великотърновския университет „Св. св. Кирил и Методий”и българската археология, 1. В. Търново, 2010, 505–525.
В. Плетньов. Крепостта Кастрици (предварително съобщение). – В:  Сб. Тангра. В чест на 70-годишнината на акад. В. Гюзелев. София, 2006, 451-465.
В. Плетньов. Кулата на средновековната крепост Кастрици в Евксиноград. – ИНМВ, 40 (56), 2005, 81-95.
В. Плетньов. Новите проучвания на крепостта Кастрици. – В: Сб. Каварна – средище на Българския Североизток. Варна, 2008, 112-125.
В. Плетньов, К. Тотев. Византийско изкуство (ХІ–ХІV век). Християнски реликви от Варненско. Варна, 2011.
В. Плетньов. Съкровище от сребърни накити от крепостта Кастрици. – В: Еurika. In honorem Ludmilаe Donchevae-Petkovae. София, 2009, 487–501 (с В. Павлова).


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Аlexander Minchev, February-April 2013
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