Siege of Tarnovo

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Siege of Tarnovo
Part of the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars
DateApril - 17 July 1393
Result Decisive Ottoman victory
Coat of Arms of the Bulgarian Empire.PNG Bulgarian Empire Flag of the Ottoman Sultanate (1299-1453).svg Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Patriarch Evtimiy Süleyman Çelebi

The siege of Tarnovo occurred in the spring of 1393 and resulted in a decisive Ottoman victory. With the fall of its capital, the Bulgarian Empire was reduced to a few fortresses along the Danube.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and mistakenly known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Second Bulgarian Empire medieval Bulgarian state

The Second Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state that existed between 1185 and 1396. A successor to the First Bulgarian Empire, it reached the peak of its power under Tsars Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. It was succeeded by the Principality and later Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1878.

Danube River in Central Europe

The Danube is Europe's second longest river, after the Volga. It is located in Central and Eastern Europe.


Origins of the conflict

Tarnovo exceeded all Bulgarian towns by its size, its treasures, and its partly natural, partly artificial fortifications. Therefore, the Turks attacked this area of Bulgaria first.

Bulgaria country in Southeast Europe

Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.

The battle

In the spring of 1393, Bayazid I gathered his troops from Asia Minor, crossed the Helespont, and joined with his western army, which likely included some Christian rulers from Macedonia. He entrusted the main command to his son Celebi, and ordered him to depart for Tarnovo. Suddenly, the town was besieged from all sides. The Turks threatened the citizens with fire and death if they did not surrender.

Christians people who adhere to Christianity

Christians are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words Christ and Christian derive from the Koine Greek title Christós (Χριστός), a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ).

Macedonia (region) geographical and historical region in southeastern Europe, today forming parts of Greece and North Macedonia

Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time; however, it came to be defined as the modern geographical region by the mid 19th century. Today the region is considered to include parts of six Balkan countries: Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo. It covers approximately 67,000 square kilometres (25,869 sq mi) and has a population of 4.76 million.

Süleyman Çelebi Ottoman prince

Süleyman Çelebi was an Ottoman prince and a co-ruler of the empire for several years during the Ottoman Interregnum. The name Çelebi is an honorific title meaning gentleman; see pre-1934 Turkish naming conventions.

The population resisted but eventually surrendered after a three-month siege, following an attack from the direction of Tsarevets, on July 17, 1393. The Patriarch's church "Ascension of Christ" was turned into a mosque, the rest of the churches were also turned into mosques, baths, or stables. All palaces and churches of Trapezitsa were burned down and destroyed. The same fate was expected for the tzar palaces of Tsarevets; however, parts of their walls and towers were left standing until the 17th century.

Tsarevets (fortress)

Tsarevets is a medieval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. Tsarevets is 206 metres (676 ft) above sea level.It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, and is a popular tourist attraction.

Trapezitsa (fortress)

Trapezitsa is a medieval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria.

In the absence of Tsar Ivan Shishman, who attempted to fight the Turks elsewhere, leading the remnants of his troops to the fortress of Nikopol, the main Bulgarian leader in the town was Patriarch Evtimiy. He went to the Turkish camp with the intention of assuaging the Turkish commander, who listened politely to his pleas, but afterwards fulfilled very little of his promises.

Ivan Shishman of Bulgaria 14th-century Emperor of Bulgaria

Ivan Shishman ruled as emperor (tsar) of Bulgaria in Tarnovo from 1371 to 3 June 1395. The authority of Ivan Shishman was limited to the central parts of the Bulgarian Empire.

Nikopol, Bulgaria town in Bulgaria

Nikopol is a town in northern Bulgaria, the administrative center of Nikopol municipality, part of Pleven Province, on the right bank of the Danube river, 4 kilometres downstream from the mouth of the Osam river. It spreads at the foot of steep chalk cliffs along the Danube and up a narrow valley. As of December 2009, the town has a population of 3,892 inhabitants.

Celebi left the town after appointing a local commander. The new governor gathered all eminent citizens and boyars under a pretense and had them all killed. According to legend, Evtimiy was sentenced to death but saved at the last minute by a miracle.


Later, the city's leading citizens were sent into exile in Asia Minor, where their historical traces are lost. The patriarch was sent into exile in Thrace. He died in exile and was later hailed as a national saint of his people.

The citizens of Tarnovo that remained in the town saw what was described by contemporary sources as a "complete devastation of the town". Turkish colonists occupied Tsarevets which from then on was called Hisar. The disciples of Evtimiy dispersed to Russia and Serbia, taking with them Bulgarian books, in the same way as the Greek learned men enriched the West with the old classics. Many merchants and boyars converted to Islam. The famous church of the Holy Forty Martyrs, built by Ivan Asen II, somewhat damaged after the battle, was turned into a mosque.

The fall of Tarnovo and the exile of Patriarch Evtimiy mark the destruction of the Bulgarian national church. As early as August 1394, the Patriarch of Constantinople appointed the Moldovan metropolitan bishop to carry the episcopal trebes in Tarnovo, where he came the following year. In 1402, Tarnovo had its own metropolitan, subjected to the Byzantine patriarch. Thus, the Bulgarian state fell under Turkish rule while the Bulgarian church fell under Greek rule.

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This is a list of people, places, and events related to the medieval Bulgarian Empires — the First Bulgarian Empire (681–1018), and the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185–1396).


This article incorporates text from K. J. Jireček, Geschichte der Bulgaren (1876), a publication now in the public domain.

Coordinates: 43°05′N25°39′E / 43.083°N 25.650°E / 43.083; 25.650