Belogradchik Fortress also called Belogradchik citadel was built among the inaccessible Belogradchik Rocks, when the Bulgarian state was not formed, and the Balkan Peninsula was part of the Roman Empire.
Belogradchik fortress is one of the most preserved fortresses in the country. Using the natural inaccessibility of the rocks the Romans had built it and had been keeping it as a guard of the strategic routes, passing through the region. During the late antiquity it made part of a strong fortification system of the Roman, and later on Byzantine Empire, built up on the northern slopes of the Balkan. The fortress had been further built up by the Bulgarians. Its significance increases after the establishment of Vidin principality and kingdom during the second half of the 13th and 14th c., including the lands of today’s eastern Serbia and south-eastern Romania.
The fortress is one of the latest Bulgarian strongholds conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the end of 14th c. There, there had been placed a big garrison, playing important role in the defense of the Empire and in crushing of the revolts of the Bulgarian population. During the period 1805-1837 the fortress got extended and transferred into a weapon under the guidance of the French and Italians engineers.
It comprises of three yards /each one with conditions for an autonomous defense/ and a separate fortification. There are also two gates – Vidin gate and Nish gate. On the fortification walls, which are of 10 m height had been constructed embrasures for guns and weapons. There are barrack and storage premises inside the fortification, a prison, mills for salt and wheat, and four water depots too. During war time the number of the fortress’s defenders had reached over 3000 Nos. people. As a military structure it had been used for the last time during the Serbian – Bulgarian war in 1885.
From the highest part of the fortress known as the first slab there is a spectacular view. To the South the eyes caress the folded ridge of Stara Planina from Kom peak to Vrashka, to the west the eyes are attracted by the copper peaked mountains of the Carpathians, and the low rests in the fiction of Belogradchik rocks.
In details the history of the castle says:
To order to better fortify in the first two centuries of their domination, the Romans tried hard to build a strong defense system and pave the convenient (strategic and commercial) roads. At that time (3rd century BC) was probably built and the castle near Belogradchik. It had to control this part of the road from the town Ritsaria (near the present village Archar, Vidin region) to the interior of the empire. Thus was launched the construction of a fortress among the Rocks.
In the vicinity there are preserved remains and other fortified buildings with surveillance purposes - the village Kladorub (former Roman settlement Kambustika), near the village Granichak in the area of Hanishte, the village of Dubravka and elsewhere - a total of 17 numbers.
The Romans used with the building the natural inaccessibility of the rocks and raised only two walls in the northwest and southeast. On the other sides as a barrier serve and today serve two huge rock massifs, with 80-100 m height. The fortification walls were strong, with foundation width of 4 to 5 meters and high from12 to 15 m. This Roman castle was a fortress watchtower also. It had two water cisterns hollowed in the rock, about 5 meters deep, which are filled with snow and rainwater and the gathered quantity was kept as emergency supply.
Not far from the fortress are found remains of a Roman aqueduct. In the northwestern part of the castle is preserved almost entirely a basement, probably built later by the Bulgarians.
A few hundred meters south of the castle on a lonely steep cliff are located the ruins of another ancient fortification that helped the Roman castle.
Roman fortress had the task of not only to monitor, control and protect the road, but also to pass on and further pass messages mainly of a military nature through various signals. Romans used for signaling at night and fire smoke during the day, and when it was foggy they bet drums. Other castle received the signal transmitted it to third parties and thus the messages reached their purpose.
In 395, when the separation of the Roman Empire took place, the Balkan lands entered inside the boarders of Byzantium.
In the 6th century on the Balkan Peninsula the Slavonic attacks began. This serious threat from the north forced the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527 565) to build several fortification posts. For this fortification activities chronicler Procopius writes: "The old fortifications were reconstructed and 400 castles, fortresses and cities were newly built." Especially important was the Balkan defense zone. To it belongs and the castle in Belogradchik, which plays an important role due to its strategic location.But it, like many others, could not resist the combined pressure of the Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians, who at the end of 7th century won the right to exist of the new Bulgarian state and stayed forever in those places. With the forming of the Bulgarian state, a new period of history for the Belogradchik Fortress started too. In those early centuries the Bulgarian rulers attached to it different importance.
Up to 15th -19th c. Belogradchik fortress preserved its medieval Bulgarian appearance. Later the Turks did some further fortifying works and new constructions on the fortress wall. The use of the Fortress at the end of the 17th and early 18th c. appears to be related to the Austrian campaigns against the Turks in 1683-1689, the 1714-1718 and 1735-1739. The strengthening of the fortress was caused by the desire of the Turkish to strengthen its position in this part of the empire. Many sources indicate that there was a haidouk (rebel) movement and riots of the local population.
Reorganization of Belogradchik fortress for firearms started in 1805 under the leadership of French fortificators and finished in 1837 by Italian engineers. After this reorganization the fortress occupied 10,211 square meters. It was divided into three parts, separated from each other with a stone portal and massive iron gates. Fortification wall depending of the terrain had different heights - from 3 to 15 m, and the wall thickness at the base of 2 to 2.5 m
Fortress wall had also 350-400 loopholes for firearms built on the place of Bulgarian teeth-shaped loopholes. Where the Bulgarian towers were, the Turks built three gun platforms. Today are preserved only sentinel premises and some dungeons that were used as dungeons and warehouses.
Initially Belogradchik fortress was guarded by Turkish male population free of duties and taxes. For the Guarding the fort there were engaged several hundred people, but in case of danger it could accommodate 1000 - 1500 people. During the period 1837 - 1867, in the fortress was permanent army which took the defense of the city and the region.
In 1850, the castle played a negative role in the defeat of the Belogradchik uprising.
Some time after 1885, in the fortress a garrison continue to be billeted and after the construction of barracks in the city, it lost its military significance. Even in 1890, the municipal government in Belogradchik decided to sell to the citizens of the stones that were used for the building of the castle. This intention was frustrated by the local shepherds that reorganized the fortress for economic needs. Its use in this context and the lack of any care for its maintenance led to some destruction of the walls and battlements of the castle premises.
However, specialists consider it as one of the best preserved fortresses in Bulgaria. Immediately after declaring it a cultural monument, it was restored and is now adapted for public visits.
The Fortress is one of the hundred tourist sites of Bulgarian Tourist Union: Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress.
Fortress was declared a cultural monument of national importance in 1985.