Architecture

When speaking of a town’s architecture, one usually bears in mind its characteristic monuments.

In Turnovo, however, the individual buildings cannot give one an idea of the actual aspect of the town. One should rather speak of the monolithic character of its architecture. Naturally, each building has a value of its own when looked upon in relation to its environment.

But the picture of the town is created, above all, by the combination of various buildings, their harmony and contrasts. Turnovo’s picturesque scenery, however, was by no means the sole factor for its specific architecture in the Revival Period.

This specific character is due to a number of other factors.

In the first place, the economic prosperity of the population in the 19th century undoubtedly played an important part. And, in the second, the builders embodied in their work the growing national consciousness of the emerging Bulgarian bourgeoisie.

It was not for the sake of security alone that the Bulgarian population preferred to build its houses on the slopes of Orlovets. The southeastern aspect of the hill offers exceptionally good climatic conditions, as most of the houses are exposed to the sun all day long, and the scenery is very beautiful.

Undoubtedly, the town would have made still greater progress economically and culturally during the period of Ottoman rule, had it not been ravaged by fires, breaking out several times, which destroyed not only large quantities of goods and interesting old houses, but a great many churches full of valuable paintings and books.

Individual buildings, where zealous collectors of old relics had gathered rare works of art and unique manuscripts, were also burnt up.

A violent fire broke out in 1680. It lasted for six days, from March 20 to 25, and destroyed the larger part of the old Turnovo. The densely built houses and the great deal of wood used in them made the work of the fire brigades futile.

The Bashdarluk quarter was burnt up in 1818. It was restored, but a new fire destroyed it on June 28, 1825. Fires also broke out in 1845, 1847 and 1849. The latter was particularly destructive.

It turned into ashes as many as 600 houses, including the two Bulgarian schools.

The last disastrous fire in Turnovo broke out on June 26, 1879, a short time after the Liberation. Much damage was done by the armed bands of deserters from the Ottoman army and adventurers, known as Kurdjali, who raged in the country at the turn of the 18th century and devastated villages and monasteries.

The Kilifarevski, Kapinovski and Arbanashki monasteries were destroyed by the Kurdjali in 1798.

The same year the bands pillaged the village of Arbanassi and the rear guard of the troops of Hyussein Pasha, bound for Vidin to put down the rebellion of the Turkish commander Osman Pazvantoglu, who had proclaimed himself independent, passed through Turnovo and destroyed its suburbs. The beautiful village of Arbanassi, which had flourished in the 18th century and had begun to build churches with rich murals in the early 17th century, was reduced to ruins in 1810.

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