Madara Horseman (Madara Rider) Relief Tourist Information
The rock relief “Madara Rider” is an unusual and the only one of its kind in Europe monument dated to the early Middle Ages. It is in the north-eastern part of the country, only twenty kilometers from the town of Shumen, near the village of Madara. The relief was cut in a vertical rock at twenty-three meters height during the eighth century. The relief has measures of 2.6 meters in height and is 3.1 meters wide at its base. This unique masterpiece comprises a life-size rider, a lion, a dog, and some Greek inscriptions. There are and some maintains saying there is a cut snake either, but way too effaced.
With his right hand, the horseman has thrown a spear with a flag at the lion lying beneath the horse’s front legs. The man’s right foot is put in a stirrup and there is also a dog, running behind the horse. The image is considered to show and honour the victorious khan Tervel. The details of Madara Horseman bring to mind its likely Proto-Bulgarian origin. The ancient inscriptions, which are written in Greek, are there to announce various events during the eighth and ninth centuries in Bulgarian-Byzantine relationships under the authority of the khans Khormisosh, Omurtag and khan Tervel.
On the ledge in left of the rock relief are placed ruins of buildings from various ages – a court, proto-Bulgarian pagan sanctuary, small churches and monasteries.
A staircase with 386 stairs cut in the rock goes up to the Madara plateau and to the fortress.
The Madara Horseman has always been enveloped in mystic - even as early as the proto-Bulgarians sacrificed oblational animals on the altar below. Most likely is the name Madara to mean holy mountain or holy rock.
For one the relief is a hunt scene, for other the Horseman is associated with khan Tervel and his victory over the Byzantines expressed by the lion. And for third it depict by a horoscope the foundation moment of the first Bulgarian state in Europe – in April of 165y., where the horseman symbolize the Sun, the lion – the star Regul, and the dog – the Moon. The Sun keeps scepter/not a spear/ on the lion as a sign for the visual concur of the two sky objects, and close behind the Sun is the Moon. In this way the representation becomes state-horoscope, directly connected with the foundation of the first Bulgarian country.
The Madara Rider is included in the national history and archaeology reserve of Madara, as well as in UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. It was once connected with the large worship complex of pagan sanctuaries, palaces and houses, erected by khan Omurtag on the Madara rock terraces. At the rock base, there is also a large cave called the Nymphs’ Cave – patrons of the water, nature and the woods, where the Thracians worshiped their deities in ancient times. In this cult to the Nymphs especial attention was given to the water, which “tears” from the cave’s vault arch, and once people believed that because of it the blind could see again. And at present it is scientifically proved the water purge human’s body and has a wholesome effect to the vision.
In the bottom of the cave lies a huge stone with three engraved cross. Not only people with especial sensibility, but almost everyone could feel the warmth of the stone which recovers body’s energy. Interesting is and the stone with the circle wall round it for which the ancient people believed that if they wear a little piece from it along, it will protect them from pain, infirmity and evil spirits.
In the silent nights the drops of the water, falling from the vault arch of the Big Cave, by the acoustic of its dome sounds like a melody and create weird, magical atmosphere. Today this acoustic and atmosphere are being used for various concerts and playbills.
The tourism’s meaning of Madara Horseman does not end as a unique work of art and a masterpiece of the relief plastic art. Except it immortalize the birth of one of the first European states – the Bulgarian, this monument express the view of life of the society that time and the spirit of the epoch. It brings to us distant legends. Its value grows in even higher dimensions, when you look at it in combination with the magnificent nature and cultural-historical environment.
The Madara Rider has been listed in the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List of UNESCO in 1979 in Luxor, Egypt.