The Madara Rider (1979)

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Bulgaria 1960. The Madara Rider.

Bulgaria 1997. The Madara Rider.

The Madara Rider, representing the figure of a knight triumphing over a lion, is carved into a 100-m-high cliff near the village of Madara in north-east Bulgaria. 

Madara was the principal sacred place of the First Bulgarian Empire before Bulgaria's conversion to Christianity in the 9th century. The inscriptions beside the sculpture tell of events that occurred between A.D. 705 and 801. 

  • Bulgaria 1960.  The Madara Rider. 
  • Bulgaria 1997. The Madara Rider. 

n a range of cliffs there are signs of human occupation dating back to the third century B.C.  The village's most famous sight is the mysterious bas-relief known as the Madara Rider. It is carved into the rockface at a height of 95 meters, and is so eroded that details are only apparent by the light of the setting sun. 

Bulgaria 1985. Souvenir sheet. The Madara Rider.

Various Greek inscriptions next to the carving provide ambiguous clues to its age:  the oldest one, recording a debt owed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II to Khan Tervel, suggests that the Bulgarians carved the rider in the eighth century.  However, some scholars believe it is far older than that.  The figure, they argue, represents the nameless rider-god of the Thracians, and is of Thracian or Getae origin, the inscriptions merely evidence that it was later appropriated by Bulgarian rulers. 

Sources and links:

Many thanks to Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia & Montenegro) for scans provided for this page. 

Other World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Bulgaria-section,  for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 18 aug 2007  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus 
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