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Current Name
Nessebar / Nesebar
Ancient Name
Messambria; Melsambria; Menabria; Menebria
Medieval Name
Messembria; Messemvria; Nessebar
History of the name

Both the ancient city and the port have been named by their first settlers – the Thracians, who called it at turn Messambria or Melsambria. The meaning is city of Melsa, as in south Thracian dialect bria meant city, fortress and the first part of the name is associated with Melsa – the legendary Thracian king, probably founder of the first settlement on this site. Some ancient sources mentioned the city also as Menabria or Menebria. Most likely during early Byzantine period, 5th – 6th centuries, and certainly in harmony with the changes in Greek language during the Middle Ages, the name of the city changed to Messembria, respectively Messemvria and remained such for a long period of time. When during 9th – 10th centuries Bulgarians settled in the city and its surroundings they changed the name according their linguistic features to Nessebar. During Ottoman period the name Messembri was encountered in some documents too. Both names Nessebar together with Messevbria remained valid until late 19th - early 20th centuries, however later on only Nesseabr/ Nesebar is in use.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Balkan peninsula, Western Black Sea coast
Administrative subdivision
Burgas Region, South-East Region
It is located about 70 km South of Varna and 45 km North of Burgas. The Ancient and Medieval town was situated on the picturesque Nessebar peninsula, near the foothills of East-most Balkan Mountains but nowadays the modern one split over the mainland too.
Foudation Date
Being the only apoikia on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast settled by Dorian immigrants, Messambria was founded as an independent city-state (polis) of Hellenic type. It was established on the site of a relatively large fortified Thracian town, which some modern historians call protopolis. The earliest Thracian fortress of Messambria dates back from Early Iron Age (c. 8th – 7th c. BC). However, on the peninsula there have been discovered separate findings from Late Eneolithic period (c. 4 400 – 4 200 BC) and Late Bronze Age (c. 16th – 12th c. BC). The fortress of this ancient polis was built probably at the end of 6th – early 5th c. BC by the new settlers: Greek colonists of Dorian origin from Byzantion and/or Chalcedon under the auspices of mother - polis Megara.
Current condition
Nessebar is the center of a municipality with a population of 11 000. Appropriate environmental and climate conditions combined with high average annual air- and sea water temperature are the forming factors of today’s main economy of the town and its vicinity: – tourism, recreation trade and sport. The sand beaches stripes are among the greatest ones on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast amounting to 1 500 décars with total capacity of 140 000 places. The important coastline and its diverse character created suitable conditions for growth of tourism, maritime sports and recreation industries. As a result the Municipality of Nessebar is the most important tourist related agglomeration in Bulgaria. Some 730 hotels and 3537 catering and restaurant establishments operate on its territory. Nearby, Northward of the modern town is located the great resort complex Sunny beach. The city is well known with its fisheries, souvenir shops and hotel and restaurant units and in summertime it becomes center of various cultural events. During the season in its summer theatre take place concerts of classical, rock and pop music, but as well theater performances, ballet and many more. The city is famous with its many art galleries and antique shops. Currently the only active church in the city is an Orthodox one from 19th century, while a number of earlier ones: of Medieval and Early Christian periods are accessible and very much demanded tourist sites of Bulgarian National cultural heritage. The City museum is very much visited because of its rich collection of various archaeological artifacts and icons. Nessebar is included in the list under UNESCO auspices of World Cultural Heritage as City – museum.

The city was founded by Thracians in the Early Iron Age, perhaps c. 10th – 7th c. BC, and during the following centuries it was surrounded by city walls built of larger chopped stones fixed by clay. Legends repeated by several ancient authors indicated that the city founder was the mythical/ legendary Thracian King by name Melsas or Menas, which gave the name of earliest settlement: Me[l]sambria or Menabria. The first Greek colonists settled onsite at the end of 6th c. BC. They were of Dorian origin and probably citizens of Megara. Initially Greeks populated the Thracian settlement, but a few of the later remained in the city. Eventually the city was established as a real Hellenic polis (a city-state) with all necessary administrative and started to grow both in economics and population. During 5th – 4th centuries BC it was encircled with new massive city wall covering larger area than the Thracian one. Residential neighborhoods took shape new temples were constructed and a gymnasium and theatre have been also built. During Late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th - 2nd c. BC), various crafts were flourishing in the city: mainly metal processing, tiles, pottery, terracotta figurines and other ceramic objects, as well as production of very fine gold jewellery. Messambria began to mint its own coins c. 440 BC and this is the period when the first gold coins of the city were minted. The polis sustained very good commercial relationships with other poleis on the Black sea, the Aegean sea and the Mediterranean. The artifacts confirming the rich economic, cultural and spiritual life during the period of 6th – 1st c. BC included amphorae from all ancient wine producing centers, black glazed and painted Attic vessels, bronze vessels, imported jewellery, etc.. In BC 72 the polis was captured without any resistance by the Roman army. After a short occupation in AD 45 the polis was included in the Roman Empire within the Province of Thracia. Messembria continued to mint its own bronze coins and remained very important commercial and cultural center on Roman Thracia Black Sea coast. The city walls were partially reconstructed and new large public buildings have been erected but the polis lost some of its previous importance as trade center. The city is indicated on the Tabula Peutingeriana (3rd c.) south of Temlum Iovis (Obzor): ... 32 miles to Odessos – 16 miles to Erite – 16 miles to Templus Iovis – 16 miles to Messembria....
Favorable conditions for the revival of Black Sea coastal cities appeared in early 4th c. AD after the transfer of the imperial capital from Rom to Constantinople and the adoption of Christianity for official religion throughout the empire. Approximately then the city name changed to Messembria. In the following century the Ancient temples were demolished and Christian ones, basilicas built on their site. In 5th-6th c. AD, new city walls were erected, together with a new water supply and sewage network, which served also for the new-built city thermae. The constructions of Early Christian churches were directed by the empire leading architects and civil engineers following examples from the capital. The cathedral of Messembria was named St. Sophia, similar to the one in Constantinople. Since 4th c. AD the city became most likely a Metropolitan See in the Diocese of Haemimontus Its Metropolitans took part in all Ecumenical councils, including the Sixth Constantinople Council (680) and the Seventh Nicene Council (787). The Metropolitan cathedral erected c. 6th century is an imposing brick building with arches preserved until present, though without its roof. During Late Antiquity (4th-6th c. AD), the city became again an important port and commercial center. The artifacts discovered by archaeological excavations in the modern town included imported ceramics and metal vessels from Asia Minor and North Africa, glass utensils from Constantinople and many other, marble architectural units used for church decoration, etc. the Early Byzantine historian Anastasius Bibliothecarius informed that in AD 563 the Black sea had frozen at Messembria and until Media up to 100 miles offshore.Messembria was subject to several barbarian incursions during 6th century. In AD 587 its fortress was taken by force, the city was plundered and destroyed by Avars. However it managed to recover quickly and reached its previous leading positions important port, trade and religious centre. It was especially mentioned in the Cosmographia by Ravennatis anonymi from the beginning of 8th century: ... in that Thrace there were many cities, out of which we would like to mention some more significant on the sea coast: Constantinople, the most famous of all cities ... Apollonia, Anchialo, Messembria...
After the instauration of the Bulgarian state north of Haemus in 681, Messembria became an important administrative and military center, major harbor for dislocation and concentration of Byzantine troops during their campaigns against Bulgaria. In 705 Emperor Justinian II Rhinotmetos (685-695; 705-711) landed in the harbor for his successful join campaign with Bulgarian Khan Tervel to Constantinople, in order to regain power in the empire.
In 812 the city was conquered for the first time by the army of Bulgarian ruler Khan Krum, during his campaign Constantinople and during the siege some special siege-devices were used. When Bulgarians captured the city they collected as war booty thirty six siphons for the so-called Greek fire, an incendiary weapon used until then only by Byzantine army. The victory was marked by a marble column with memorial inscription erected in the Bulgarian capital Pliska. By that time the city received its Bulgarian name Nessebar. The event was marked with special victory column in the capital PliskaMesambria was re-conquered by Byzantium most likely in 863. This is the year when its Metropolitan See was re-included to the Constantinople Patriarchate. In 879 the Metropolitan of Messembria took part in the church council summoned by patriarch Photius. The city metropolitans have been mentioned in the Diocesan lists compiled during the reign of emperor Alexius I Komnenos at the end of 11th century Messembria established itself as an important city in the contact trade zone between Bulgaria and Byzantium. It is not accidental that during internal conflicts for power in Bulgaria most fugitives from the capital Pliska were accepted here, including Khan Sabin (761-764). According to 9th century Byzantine historians: ... There was a rebellion, Sabin flew to the fortress Messembria and passed to Emperor’s camp. During the entire Middle Ages, whenever the city was in the hands of Byzantium it was its starting point for invasions into Bulgaria by land and by sea. In 765 the city hosted the entire fleet of emperor Constantine V Kopronimus: The emperor, in violation of the peace treaty with Bulgarians, armed again 12 000 strong cavalry and sent with it all fleet captains. At the same time he, fearing for his life stayed with the cavalry. When the fleet reached Messembria a very strong Northern wind blew and almost destroyed all ships, while many perished in the sea. The fortress walls were restored during the reign of emperor Basil I Macedonian (867-886). During the 894 – 895 campaign of Bulgarian Tsar Simeon south of Haemus, Messembria, among all other Black Sea fortresses until Media were included in Bulgarian territory and remained under its control until 971 when Byzantium conquered Bulgaria. In 1063 Messembria, and many other Black Sea coastal towns, was struck by a very powerful earthquake. As an important defense center of the empire against the new nomadic invaders: Pechenegs and Uzi, Emperor Constantine X Doukas reconstructed the fortress and the city. Although Messembria established itself as the most important port for the Byzantine fleet exactly in the town vicinity in 1079raised the rebellion of the Bulgarian nobelman Dobromir, which however had no success. Messembria was again used as military base from where the armies of Emperor Isaac II Angelos marched during his campaign against the newly established in 1190 Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Messembria was included in Bulgarian kingdom again probably during the Black Sea campaign of Tsar Kaloyan, after his conquest of Varna in 1201. At a later date the southern city was able to resist the knights of the crusader Emperor Heinrich during his campaign against Bulgarian Black Sea towns in 1206. The city remained Bulgarian until 1263 together with all sea-coast towns South of Haemus (Balkan Mountain) up to Agathopolis, though for a certain period of time it was part of the domain of Bulgariam nobleman Despot Mitso, pretender for the Bulgarian crown during the civil turmoil in the kingdom in 1256-1257. In 1257 the city was conquered and sacked by the Venetians who sent against it a fleet of ten galleys under the command of admiral Giacomo Doro. Soon after it was reconquered by Despot Mitso, but the latter lost the battle for the crown in Tirnovo. The pretender flew to Byzantium and ceded to the emperor Michael VІІІ Palaiologus the region of Thrace he ruled over including Messembria. In 1268 the city was promised as dowry to Bulgarian Tsar Constantine Tikh together with Anchialos. However, as the Byzantine emperor delayed the transfer of the cities, which caused a conflict between two states in 1271-1276. The later was overshadowed by a rebellion in Bulgaria in 1277 against the royal power led by Ivaylo. During summertime in 1280, Tsar Ivan Asen III, the protégé of Byzantine Emperor feeling uncertain on the Tirnovo throne, flew with his wife Irene Palaiologos and the royal treasury to Messembria. Messembria and the Southern Black Sea coast were annexed again in the Bulgarian state in 1304 following the successful for Tsar Theodor Svetoslav (1300-1321) battle against Byzantium near Skafida. The acquisition was legalized with the peace treaty of 1307 and the marriage of the Tsar with Theodora, daughter of the co-Emperor Michael IX Palaiologos. Following the defeat near Velbazhd (modern Kyustendil) and the death of the Bulgarian Tsar Michael III Shishman, the Byzantine army invaded the Black Sea coast, subjected to devastation the Bulgarian coastal fortresses and conquered Messembria. Soon after the Bulgarian citizens of the city disavowed and after the battle at Rusokastro in 1331 chased the Byzantine administration. The city final heyday began at this time and it is evidenced by building and restoring of a number of churches and monasteries, some of the activities being financially assisted by the  then Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander and members of his family. During almost two centuries – 12th – 14th c., Messembria was an attractive place for vacation of both Byzantine and Bulgarian aristocracies, whose members often rested in the city during summertime enjoying the sea cool breeze. Furthermore the Byzantine emperors used it continuously for sending in exile of some of their enemies in Constantinople.
If we go back to the City church history, during the reign of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II and following the 1234 Coucil at Lampsacus, the Messembria metropolitan was transferred under the spiritual control of Tirnovo Patriarchate. Later like other on, Black Sea Metropolitan sees it passed for a long period to Constantinople Patriarchate, although still remaining within the territory of Bulgaria. Messembrian Metropolitans took part in the meetings of the summits of Constantinople Synodos during the entire 14th century. In 1369 the Metropolitan of Messembria took temporary control also over Varna diocese: The Synodos vote added to the See of the above mentioned Metropolitan of Nessebar and Anchialo the Holy Metropolitan See of Varna and its possessions – Petrich, Provat, Galata, Kichevo, Emona and Karvuna. Some years later, namely in 1372, Messembrian Metropolitan is mentioned in the Patriarchate decisions when the temporary empty Metropolitan See of Messembria was taken by the Archbishop of Maroneia. To him, by Synodos decision, were returned also the coastal fortresses of Emona and Kozyak, which have been previously excluded from the See- and city control.
In 1351 Messembria, along with other Bulgarian Black Sea cities was attacked, taken and sacked by the fleet of the Genoese admiral Paganino Doria.
During the subsequent territorial conflict between Bulgaria and Byzantium, in 1364the city was besieged by Emperor John V Palaiologus. Despite the Byzantine complex siege equipment, Messembria did not surrender and after the following negotiations remained in Bulgarian state. This was the final Bulgarian-Byzantine war.
In the beginning of October 1366 an army of knights led by count Amadeus VI of Savoy with a significant fleet attacked most fortresses on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. For a short period of time they took Agathopolis, Sozopol and Skafida. They besieged Messembria defended by the local Bulgarian commander kastrophilaktos Kaloyan. The city was taken on October 21st, devastated and pillaged. A severe contribution was imposed on local population – over 20 000 gold coins (hyperpyrons) of Messembria weight. Until beginning of 1367 Messembria was the seat of Count Amadeus of Savoy and from the city delegations to settle the conflict with Bulgaria were dispatched. The city name is mentioned several times in the count’s accounting books written by his book-keeper: I paid there [in Messambria], on December 17 upon order by Sire, with the agreement of Sire Gutiérrez, through Jaymon Gallon 26 sailors from Marseille who were sent by Sire on an armed galley to Varna, to His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople; so I paid from the funds of Sire – 26 gold hyperpyrons of Messembria weight and paid upon Sire order to some Micheto di Marbossio, Giovani di Mormotte and the bastard di Gaio for the above mentioned possessions that they bought by the end of September in Pera, when Sire had to march against Varna and Messembria, namely for the making of a siege machine, 16 devices for siege towers, four big iron staircases and many other outfits ... – 164 and 1/6 florins, good weight. After that period according the terms and conditions of the treaty between Count Amadeus and Emperor John V Palaiologos, the city was transferred in its possession and charged again with a tax of 11 000 hyperpyrons. Then actually, the decline of the city began. Soon after 1367 Messembria and the region South of Haemus, under the name of Zagora were turned into Emperor’s son Michael Palaiologos apanage
During the Middle Ages within the city walls were erected and operated about 40 churches and monasteries, some of which since early Byzantine period (5th – 6th c.). Today ten of them are preserved in different condition.
The city was taken by the Turks in 1396 and then they transferred a large part of its population near Aheloi, in a settlement called Chimos. The Black Sea coast remained under Ottoman control until 1403, when emir Süleyman Çelebi ceded the region to Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos under the terms and conditions of his peace treaty with the Christian league. The treaty stipulates: To my father - Emperor of the Greeks I gave Thessaloniki with Kalamaria … and handled to my father, I turn it back and surrender to them the land from Panido to Nessebar, together with Paroria and the fortresses and saltpans and all belonging to them, which I gave without any tribute to my father-emperor. A few years later: in 1410, the Ottoman ruler on the Balkan peninsula Mûsa took Messembria back. The fact is noted in the so-called Messembria chronicle: In the year of the Lord 6919 (1409–1410) Mûsa attacked the lands of the Basileus and besieged Nessebar. After Mûsa died the Byzantine Emperor received back in possession the city after a treaty with sultan Mehmet І. As normal for this old age, in 1421 the Emperor divided his lands to his sons to rule over smaller depending principalities. Messembria was included in the possessions of his fourth son Constantine Dragas, who ruled the city until 1429. In 1440 Messembria was ceded by Emperor John VIII Palaiologos to his brother Demetrius Palaiologos. In his quest for independence and in union with the Ottomans the Despot of Messembria began an war against the Emperor in the spring of 1442. His failure returned Messembria back under the control of the Byzantine Emperor.
Messembria was mentioned in several 15th century written sources as possession of the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XII Dragas. The latter even attempted to cede the city to the Transylvanian Voivode Janos Hunyadi in 1453 in order to attract him as an ally in his last efforts against the Ottomans.
In the beginning of March 1453 sultan Mehmet ІІ organized the last expedition to seize Constantinople. The beylerbey of Rumelia (Bulgaria) Karadzha pasha marched against those Black Sea ports that were still Byzantine strongholds. Messembria was one of the last fortresses taken just before the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. Soon after due to the shrinking population of the capital sultan Mehmet ІІ ordered part of the Black Sea cities population, including that of Messembria, to move to Constantinople.


Having length of c. 350 meters, the Ancient city fortifications protected naturally the island, and later the peninsula, while providing access way only from west on a narrow isthmus. Through the centuries, with the rising sea level the peninsula lost significant area of its surface and ruins of city walls, streets and ancient buildings are seen now with naked eye under water. Until the Middle Ages the city area shrank with more that a quarter and now occupies some 24 ha. The Ancient fortress, although greater that the earlier – Thracian one, intercepts it on several points and some of its sections have been investigated in detail by excavation. The wall is built by chopped stones bonded with clay and had an arch-like form. The Hellenistic wall is up to 4 meters wide. The Classical Age city main gate is built near that of the Thracian protopolis, left of the isthmus neck. The wall that has been studied in north and south directions remained now under the peninsula four meters isobaths. The remnants of a Hellenistic stone-built quay, reconstructed and used also during Early Byzantine age, have been discovered underwater too. On the straight sections of fortification walls, solid rectangular towers thick up to 4.75 m have been erected. Pentagonal towers protect the main gate from west. The fortification walls have been used until Early Roman period. During the second half of the 5th century there have been erected new fortifications and the new wall built in opus mixtum is traced directly behind the classical one. The main gate is flanked by two large pentagonal towers. In both ends of the west court wall there were erected circular towers. On the peninsula North side, the Byzantine wall supplants the one from the classical age. During later periods, the fortification walls have been reconstructed several times after the numerous sieges, conquests and destructions of the city. Bulgarian The Ivan archaeologist Venedikov considered that there were three periods of construction activities: a Late Classical from 5th – 4th centuries BC; from mid-4th century BC (following partial demolition) and Hellenistic periods (end of 4th – 3rd centuries BC). The latter fortification was used almost without any repairs during the entire Roman period (1st-3rd c. AD). New building activities have been noted by the end of 5th c. AD; at the end of 6th c. AD; in mid-9th century and twice during the 14th century. The Medieval fortress inherited with some reconstructions the layout of the ancient fortification system. Between 9th – 14th centuries the walls have been refurbished by additions of new towers from South which are almost square in shape. The entire peninsula has been surrounded by fortification walls, preserved today at some points up to some 8 meters height. The easier accessible West wall was additionally protected by six more towers.


Today: In the bay South and North of the peninsula nowadays operate a harbor with waterbreaker and pier sufficient for mostly little tourist- and fishing boats, as well as of medium size yachts.  The bay is often visited by cruises of large passenger ships, which stay on anchor in the bay and passengers-tourists are transferred to the town by smaller ships.
Past: The initial apoikia of Megara possessed a perfectly protected bay, ideal for port activities. Ovid wrote about the ports of Messambria, but by the end of 3rd century BC, the city had only one of those, as testified by an Ancient inscription of that time found in Nessebar. Two Ancient anchor stone stocks and one lead with groove type II have been found in the city Southern bay. One should take into consideration that Ovid is the only one Ancient author who mentioned that Messambria had more than one harbor and it is generally accepted that in Antiquity the polis made use as port of only its southern bay. In front of the South side of fortress wall there have been discovered ruins of an Ancient quay: probably of the Classical or Hellenistic Age (5th – 1st centuries BC), which most likely was used also during the Early Byzantine Age (4th – 6th c.AD).
Various underwater explorations have registered remains from the Ancient city at 5 meter depths. In the peninsula North-West part, the submerged Late Antique fortress wall was followed Northward at a length of 80 meters. The findings of ceramics dated 9th century in the ruins of the wall allowed the dating of its demolition. The destruction was connected with the taking of the city in 812by the Bulgarian Khan Krum (801–814).
An important part of Nessebar peninsula sank during the last few centuries. Historic written sources provided data for some monasteries in Nesebar/ Messembria, which are today either completely destroyed or partially preserved. The monasteries of St. Christ Acropolitos and St. Mary Eleusa (of which only its basilica is preserved) have been located in the Northern part of Nessebar peninsula. As the name of the first monastery suggests, probably it was located in the highest and best protected part of the city (the Acropolis), while its church collapsed in the sea in 1855. The church of St. Mary Agyosotirissa does not exist at all today and remained with unknown location.
Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos mentioned that in 10th century, during summertime the port of Messambria was visited by Varyags (Vikings) on their sailing to Constantinople markets: From Danube they reach Konopa, from Konopa to Constantia (Constanta, Romania), along the river Varna (Varna Lake) and from Varna – to river Tichina (Kamcia). These are all Bulgarian lands. From Tichina they arrive to the region of Messembria and so this is the end of their painful, dangerous and full with obstacles hard sailing.
In the Compass in sailing dated 1296, in connection with Pisa map, for the first time the port of Messembria has been marked and mentioned: Messembre is a good port and above the mentioned harbor you see a fortress. You may be sure for all winds and the bottom is between 6 and 30 feet.
From Messembre to Erminio (Emine) 8 miles North-East.
In an Italian portolan of 14th century the city was mentioned with the name Misenbi, where there was a river that flows into the sea at east.
Another portolan of 14th century mentioned the good harbor of Messembria: From Sizopoli (Sozopol) to Miscuria (Messembria) there are 18 miles. Miscuria is a populated town and has a spring on its West side beach, if you turn the ship bow toward the town..
From Miscuria to the bay Limano (Emine) on 4 degrees east – north-east there are 30 miles.
Similar data provides a contemporary Venetian portolan: From Sozopol to Misivri there are 18 miles. Misivri is a town and port and (has) sand roadstead. The ships turn to the city from West. From Misivri to Achilo there are 14 miles. Achilo is town and good port and has saltpans.
From Misivri to Varna there are 100 miles on the map from North-East to eEst. The port has been mentioned also in other anonymous Italian portolani of 14th – 15th centuries.

In 1235, the Serbian Archbishop Sava landed in the Bulgarian port of Messembria on his way back from Jerusalem. He sent a message from the city to the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II for his arrival and eventual greeting.
After the restoration of the Byzantine Empire in 1261, the new Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos authorized Italian merchants to trade with Black Sea ports. Despite the authorization some officials in ports charged illegal fines on merchants, as happened in 1268 when the port official Rukas imposed duty on wheat bought onsite by Venetians. Some venetian public notary deeds shed light that in 1281 in Messembria there was active trade with fashionable Lombard fabrics, as well as fabrics of Scamander type, some of which were valued at more than 500 hyperpyrones (gold coins). These public notary deeds reveal the nature of Venetian imports – fabrics and luxurious goods, and with the revenue purchased cereals to export. By the end of 13th century Messembria imposed itself as one of the most important centers of Venetian and Genoese trade. From its port was loaded the wheat sent by Bulgarian Tsar Theodore Svetoslav, that saved from hunger Constantinople in 1307.
The Venetian trade with wheat from Messembria/ Nesseabar port continued during 14th century despite the turbulence of the period and even in the first years of 15th century. In 1403 the Venetian Senate issued an order: Also anyone, as well local as foreigner, who delivers wheat with Venetian ship from any region of the Black sea, except Varna, Nessebar and Pedia, let him collect from out commune 3 lire. It is as well known that in Messembria port landed the two katargae with which the Emperor John VIII Palaiologus returned in 1424 from Akkerman (Belgorod Dniestrovskiy).
In 1445 the fleet of the Burgundy knight Valerien de Vavrin stopped in the good harbor of Messembria and was provided by local officials with supplies.
The accounting books of the Venetian merchant in Constantinople Giacomo Badoer provide information that in 1437-1439 he imported large quantities of various goods – wheat, silk, wax, and fish through his agent Michael of Nessebar. In 1453 from Messembria port to Constantinople were exported large quantities of salt from the saltpans in Anchialo. The traffic of Venetian and Genoese ships through Messembria/ Nessebar port was not terminated even after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It was suspended only after the end of 15th c. By that time the Black Sea was turned into an internal sea of Ottoman Empire, closed for foreigner tradesmen. This is the reason why after 15th century the significance of Nessebar decreased and later vanished at all. Its fortress was not maintained any more and it became a small provincial underdeveloped fishing town.


The Late Antique fortification walls and the main gate of Messambria – Messembria are preserved very well and lower sections have been excavated in the past several decades. At the entrance to the modern city and the peninsula the gate is eight meter high, flanked by pentagonal towers. The wall continues to North-East direction traces from the earliest (Thracian) and later walls – of Classical and Hellenistic Ages are visible on it. There are also circular towers constructed in opus mixtum building technique. On South-East the preserved sections of the wall there are located two rectangular towers and the construction provide visual evidence for several Medieval repairs. Small sections of the wall are preserved also in various other parts of the city sometimes with embedded over houses from the 19th century. Quite large parts of the North and East fortifications have submerged and now they can be observed with naked eye at some places in the water around the bay. 

Medieval Sites

Nessebar is inaugurated National architectural and archaeological reserve in 1956, while in 1983 the city and its cultural monuments have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Everywhere in the city may be seen ruins and constructions from various historical periods. Trough the centuries past, the fortification walls have been reconstructed several times and sometimes they have changed their line. They provide information for building techniques from the end of 6th century BC to 14th – 15th centuries AD. They surround the city on three sides, the best preserved section being the structures at the city entrance (some 8 meter high), showing a significant part of the fortification system and entrance gate of Ancient and Medieval Messambria/ Messembria/ Nessebar.. The ruins of about 40 churches from 5th to 19th centuries are preserved in various degree of preservation. Several Early Christian (5th-6th c. AD) and Medieval (11th -16th c.) churches are still intact and attract the visitors with their shape and decoration. That is white the city is often called encyclopedia of Christian church civil engineering! Amazingly picturesque with their external architectural ornaments outside are many Medieval churches, among the most interesting being the metropolitan St. Stephen from 11th century, with some reconstructions until 16th century and well preserved 16th century frescoes; St. John the Baptist (11th century) with frescoes from 13th century; Christ Pantocrator (13th – 14thc.); St. Todor (Theodor); St. Paraskeva and St. Archangels Michael and Gabriel – all three from 13th century and many other. The 14th century church St. Ivan (John) Aliturgethos, situated almost over the sea near the port. Is very beautiful due to its extremely nice and attractive ceramic decoration outside. The walls of a small Late Medieval church of The Ascension of our Lord Quite are covered by very colorful frescoes from 1609. From the several Early Christian basilicas discovered so far in the town, the best preserved (without roof) is St. Sophia, so-called Old Metropolitan  church built in 5th – 6th c. AD and used also in the Early Middle Age. It attracts the visitor’s eye with well designed picturesque brick arcades. The respectable ruins of an Early Byzantine bath (thermae) of 4th – 6th c. AD have been discovered by excavation and can be seen on the site.
The Archaeological museum, a modern building with perfectly arranged expositions is located immediately behind the city gate of Ancient Messambria. It was, especially built for the purpose building and exhibits the findings of decades of excavations on the peninsula and by underwater expeditions around it. Artifacts starting from Eneolithic Age (4400-4200 BC) up to Late Middle Ages (17th – 18th c.) provided glimpse on the city rich historical past. There is a large collection of stone and lead anchor stocks and amphoras dating from 1st millennium BC to Middle Ages, which  is an illustration of the impact of sea-trade on the port and town Especially beautiful are the very fine Hellenistic gold ornaments of 4th – 2nd c. BC discovered in the ancient city necropolis. Pottery antefixes (front tiles) with images of heads of: Gorgon Medusa and other mythological personages, as well as painted ancient Greek pottery, numerous terracotta figurines, bronze hydrias, marble statues and inscriptions as well as Thracian pottery of the same period and provide an impressive picture of the everyday- religious- and cultural life of Ancient town of Messambria. The museum has also in possession and on displays a fine collection of Roman glass- and pottery vessels; of Early Christian marble church decoration units; of beautiful “sgraffito” incised pottery of 12th – 14th centuries, etc. all discovered in the town. In the Museum’s underground floor, a small, but important and attractive exposition containing valuable icons from 15th – 19th centuries has been arranged. On many sites in the city there are small areas: lapidaria where Ancient and Medieval architectural units have been displayed among grass bushes and flowers on open air.

Textual Sources

Herod., 4.93; 6.33
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Alexander Minchev, March – July 2013
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