Ivan and Peter Asen led a bloody rebellion against Bulgaria’s Byzantine overlords in 1186. The Asen family went on to found a powerful dynasty, and ruled Bulgaria for a century.
Sofia is the capital of modern day Bulgaria, but the Asen Tsars ruled from Veliko Tarnovo. A monument to the Asen dynasty in the center of the city marked 800 years after the Asen brothers proclaimed Veliko the capital.
Ivan and Peter ruled the newly liberated Bulgaria together and undertook battles against Byzantine forces. A system of hereditary rule allowed the family to retain power and the seat of the Tsar was exchanged regularly between family members. As one expects, however, it wasn’t always happy families.
Ivan Asen II overthrew his own cousin Boril and then blinded him. Others died in attempts to expand the empire too.
The monument Veliko Tarnovo looks down on to the Yantra river and the old town. The statues depict the first four Asen rules; Ivan, Peter, Kaloyan and Asen II. Each Tsar flails a sword on a horse reared up on its hind legs. They circle a huge sword pointing up to the sky.
Visit Bulgaria with Atlas Obscura Trips
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