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Current Name
Ancient Name
Medieval Name
Kranea, Geraneia (?)
History of the name

The name of the fortress Kranea has been mentioned in two ecclesiastical documents of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the second half of 14th century. However it is quite likely that the town and port existed at least from the 13th century. The present Bulgarian name of the settlement is modified to Kranevo. During the Ottoman period (after 15th century) the name was slightly modified too and in the maps from 18th – 19th centuries appeared as Ekrene.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Balkan peninsula, Western coast of Black Sea
Administrative subdivision
Dobrich Region, North-East Region
The village of Kranevo, Region of Dobrich is located at 25 km North of Varna at the foot of Dobroudja and Franga plateaus and near the mouth of Batova River. It is ituated in the Southern part of a small shallow, and therefore not particularly suitable for mooring bay with wide sandy beach.
Foudation Date
A Late Antique fortress of unknown name has been erected on the bay shore most likely during 5th c. AD. It continued to exist until the end of 6th – beginning of 7th c. AD. Another one big fortress on the strategic hill South-West of modern village of Kranevo was built probably in the second half of 5th – early 6th c. AD in order to protect the ancient coastal road from the mouth of Danube River to Constantinople. It served also as a place of refuge for the local population in its vicinities during the numerous barbarian raids in the region, that took palce in that period. After being seized and destroyed during one of the last Avars- and Slave invasions in late 6th- beginning of 7th c. AD, it was abandoned and deserted for the next few centuries. The fortification and town were partially reconstructed probably in 13th – early 14th centuries and included in the Black Sea coast defense system of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Since mid-14th century it was incorporated within the borders of Dobroudja Despotate until it fell under Ottoman rule by the end of the same century. The Ancient and Medieval site on the Black Sea coast was abandoned again and a new settlement was established inland, ca 1 km West from the old one, which bore the same name.
Current condition
Kranevo is a resort village with population of about 1000. It has wide beaches with several, mostly small family hotels and restaurants, but recently larger recreation homes have been built as well. Recently larger hotels have been also built in and around the village, as well as close to the beach. They provide chances for surfing, diving and many other beach- and maritime activities. They are offered by local owners and tourist companies to tourists visiting the resort from all over Europe. The village is located very near to the large Bulgarian seaside resort Albena, which offers a variety of restaurants, bars and amusements. Kranevo has developed mostly tourist activities during summertime season. Hotels and restaurants provide main source of income for local population, but as well horticulture, viticulture and wine making and some fishing too. There is no modern port but only a little pier suitable for fishing and tourist boats or little yachts.

There is scarce information about the history of Kranea. The area was populated only during Late Antiquity. Archaeological excavation on the seaside and on the foot of the hill in the South part of Kranevo bay revealed traces of a Late Antique fortress active during 5th – 6th c. AD. Probably by the end of 6th c. or in the beginning of 7th c. AD it has been seized during one of the Avar- and Slav invasion raids and then deserted.
The port has had mostly local importance for trade and most likely consisted of a little pier on which may moor only smaller commercial vessels. Nevertheless, large quantities of grain and maybe also wood from the inland area were exported from here. Evidence about that was found in Osenovo, Region of Varna: a village located 3 km West of Kranevo, where there have been discovered ancient warehouses dated to the 5th – 6th c. AD. These were built near another ancient fortress situated on a strategic hillside nearby dated to the 4th – 6th c. AD, also with unknown name and history. In that location there were discovered an Early Christian basilica of 4th – 6th c. AD, and a 4th – early 5th c. AD tomb with Early Christian frescoes as well as several other Late Antique tombs and graves. Several large pottery kilns for making bricks and roof tiles partially studied suggest that the area was also a large pottery producing center. Around the fortress and within it there have been discovered grain warehouses containing many big pithoi (large container jars) for storage of grain. It was collected obviously not only in the immediate vicinity of the town but also from other sites inland modern Dobroudzha..
Kranea was also an important ceramic production center in late Antiquity. This has been proved by an important find hidden within one of the fortress’ towers. There have been discovered a large number of molds for making clay lamps and various tools for their production dated 6th – early 7th c. AD.
Kranea fortress had important strategic significance because it protected the Westward crossroad on the Ancient coastal road near the mouth of Batova river on the Black sea. That road followed the river valley inland the Late Antique Province of Scythia, respectively Medieval and modern Dobroudja.
For the time being there are no certain data for use of the Late Antique fortress near the sea in the Early Middle Ages, but it seems highly possible for the later period of 12th-14th c. An evidence about that suggestion is the fact that following the establishment of the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681 the low maritime coastline around the mouth of river Batova near the ancient Kranea was fortified for protection against eventual invasion by the Byzantine fleet. An earthwork rampart of c. 4 meters height and 600 meters length was built from the steep South slope of the Southern hill Northward to the river mouth. These works were completed most likely in the beginning of 8th century. The earthworks apart from barring the ancient road along the Batova River valley to its mouth in Black sea protected as well the access to interior lands of Dobroudja. The settlement on the bay shore was revived only in 13th – 14th centuries. On the same place near the shore and above the ruins of the Ancient fortress a large medieval building with chainlike plan and stone walls, most likely being commercial warehouses was excavated in the 1970ies. Findings included kitchen and dining ceramic ware both locally made and imported; household utensils dress ornaments, and other objects of everyday life of 13th – 14th centuries, as well as some coins of the same period. Although scarce, these findings indicate that the settlement had operated commerce with other Bulgarian coastal towns on the Black sea and with Byzantium. During the 14th century this fortified town was part of the Diocese of Varna Metropolitan See. Nearby Kranea, several kilometers in West direction another, unfortified Bulgarian settlement dated to the 13th – 14th centuries was located, where no excavation have been conducted.
Another big Late Antique- and Medieval fortress (perhaps the ancient and medieval Geraneia?) rises on the high and steep hill South of modern Village of Kranevo and Southwest of the first Late Antique fortress. It was probably erected in 5th c. AD and abandoned by its inhabitants during the Avar and Slav incursions in the region in the end of 6th – early 7th c. AD. The fortress has a triangular in shape layout and has been lined with large limestone blocks. Along the walls there were two gates and a large number of towers: 17 on the West- and 18 on the North one. In the North-East corner there was built an internal wall, which surrounded a triangular citade. This reconstruction took place most probably in 6th c. AD, maybe under Justinian. The small fortress was partially reconstructed and used during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (13th – 14th centuries). Onsite there were discovered fragments of so-called “sgraffito” ceramics and other objects of everyday life of same period, which testified for intensive trade exchange during that period. Most likely the fortress was seized and destroyed by the end of 14th century during the Ottoman invasion on the Balkan peninsula and consequently the conquest of Bulgaria. Life in the fortress was never revived again. According the Bulgarian archaeologist Ivan Sotirov in 14th century the fortress on the high hill South of Kranevo was the Medieval capital of Doboudja Despotate: Karvuna. This hypothesis was disputed and rejected with strong arguments by other Bulgarian archaeologists and historians like Alexander Kuzev and Vasil Gyuzelev. Out of the three suggestions for the site of Karvuna – Kavarna, Balchik and Kranevo (see about this discussioin in the entries for Balchik and Kavarna), this is the best protected fortress, but unfortunately still not excavated. The findings susceptible to dating coming from the second fortress are isolated and very scarce.
The names Kranea and Geranea are mentioned in two Medieval documents, both ecclesiastical and issued by the chancery of the Patriarchate in Constantinople. In 1369 and July 1370 Patriarch Philotheus transferred for spiritual control to the :etropolitan of Varna Alexius the following fortresses: + Patriarchal fortresses to Varna: + Karnava, Kraneya, Keliya or Lykostomion, Geraneia, Tristrea, Kaliakra. The second document confirms again: + Fit to Varna are: Karnava, Kranea, Keliya or Lykostomion, Geraneia, Tristrea and Kaliakra +.
Information about the fortified town reappeared again only in 16th century. In an Ottoman tax register from 1573, the village Ekrene was described with a list of fifteen shepherds Bulgarians, including two priests, i.e. the village had two churches. It is obviously that during Ottoman rule this small village had lost its strategic importance of the former fortress and it this goes until today.


The lower Late Antique fortress is situated on the seaside at the foot of the hill South of modern village of Kranevo. From the small fortress erected on the site that existed in 5th – 6th c. AD part of the wall and one circular tower have been discovered. During the 50s and 60s of the 20th century there have been excavated sections of the 2.60 m thick fortress wall, but the entire layout of the fortress is impossible for reconstruction because of many modern buildings built densely on the same spot since. It is to be noted only that back in the 50s of 20th century it was observed clearly that the fortress was not a large one. The wall was lined with big well smoothed stones. In addition to some sections of the wall, there was excavated also one circular tower too. During the excavation some Late Antique residential buildings dated 5th – 6th c. ADS constructed chainlike near the fortress wall have been revealed. The fortification protected the small pier serving for export of grain products from the region. During mid - late 20th century, there have been built a number of hotels and recreation houses over the remnants of the fortress, which impedes archaeological excavations and an appropriate study of the site at present. Currently there are no visible ruins from the sections excavated in the past century.
About half a kilometer South of the modern village Kranevo, the flat top of a steep height is occupied by the ruins of a second one, larger fortress. Its walls are also 2.60 m thick and are following the shape of terrain. It has a triangular layout, the longest side being the East one. The main gate is located on the only accessible South side. There was a small gate in the North-West part of fortification. Along the fortress walls there were erected 35 towers. The fortress covered a surface of 0.1 ha. At the North-East corner there starts a 130 meters barring wall long with a ditch 2.5 m deep and 7 m. wide in front of it. Thus a second, smaller fortress is formed within the greater one (a citadel). Its West wall is 190 m long, while the East one is 140 m. It is plausible that this part of the fortress was used again in the Medieval period of 13th – 14th centuries under the name Kraneya or Geraneia. Within the fortress area there have been found an Early Byzantine gold coin, metal jewelry and dress ornaments, Late Antique pottery and Medieval “sgraffito” type ceramics. In the foothills of the fortress there was found by chance a golden seal-ring dated 13th – 14th c. with inscription in Bulgarian: “Sevast Hodor”. This is good evidence about the importance of that fortification in the Black Sea coastal defense of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Due to the specific nature of constructions on the hill and strictly restricted access to them in contemporary time, the ruins of this fortress are not investigated as there is no access to it.


Today: There is no modern port onsite of the ancient one in Kranevo due to the erosion through the centuries that passed. Along the large bay with pleasant sandy beach and mostly on its pier at present only tourist boats and small yachts are able to moor. There is an idea for constructing a larger yacht port on the shore close to the most popular part of the beach and larger hotels.
Past: In Ancient times and in Middle Ages within the aquatory of the small (most probably much larger then), open to North bay located in the foot of the hill South of modern Kranevo there was a pier. It was intensively used during 5th – 6th centuries. This bay is one of the most unsuitable ports on the North Black sea coast – it is completely open to East and North and is not protected at all from the dangerous North-East winds. This is the reason why on Medieval sea-fare charts and portolani the name of Kranea is completely lacking. Nevertheless, in Late Antiquity the port of Kranea was still in use for trade and export of grain and wood collected in the vicinity of the fortified town and in other settlements in its hinterland.


The fortress close to the beach was partially excavated in the 5ies and 70ies of 20th century and backfilled. No traces of Late Antique fortress and the Medieval (13th-14th c.) one or of some buildings inside the fortified area are visible today. The big fortress on the heights South of Kranevo has been only described back in 1960-ies, but not excavated and further investigations have been conducted. Due to the specific function of the site nowadays and the restricted access to it.  Better preserved is the small internal fortress located within the fortification walls: the citadel. Apart of it, now on the surface of the site only single stones of the wall lines are visible.

Medieval Sites

In Kranevo there is neither a museum, nor museum collection. The archaeological findings collected during excavations in the past are preserved in the Archaeological museum – Varna and some of them are exhibited in its Late Antiquity section.

Textual Sources

Списък на крепостите подчинени на Варненския митрополит (юли 1370 г.). – В. Гюзелев. Извори за средновековната история на България (VІІ–ХV в.). В австрийските ръкописни сбирки. София, 1994, 194.
Батовска експедиция през 1955-1956 г. Ръкопис на М. Мирчев, Г. Тончева и Д. Димитров в архива на Варненския археологически музей.


Г. Тончева. Керамична работилница край с. Кранево. – ИВАД, 1953, 81-88.
Ал. Кузев. Кранея и Кастрици. – В: Български средновековни градове и крепости. Варна, 1981, 286-293.
Ив. Сотиров. Средновековният град Карвуна – възникване и местонахождение. – ГНАМ, ІХ, 1991, 169-.
Ив. Сотиров. Добруджанската столица Карвуна през ХІІ – ХІV в. – ГНАМ, Х, 1997, 105 и сл..
В. Гюзелев. Добруджа от края на ХІІ до ХV век. – История на Добруджа, 2. В. Търново, 2004, 306 .
Г. Атанасов. Добруджанското деспотство. В. Търново, 2009, 236-237.


Tourist Information:

Visual Material
Writer / Date
Аlexander Minchev, April 2013
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