Ancient City Of Nessebar: Discover Its Cultural Heritage | Kidadl


Ancient City Of Nessebar: Discover Its Cultural Heritage

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The Ancient City of Nessebar is situated on a rocky peninsula of the Black Sea Coast in Bulgaria.

It is considered one of the most picturistic views located in Burgas Province, originally believed to be a Thracian settlement known as Mesembria or Melsambria. The name literally means the 'City of Melsam', derived from its legendary founder and the Thracian head, Melsam.

This ancient city is the open-air archaeological museum of different iconic eras with rich historical heritage and culture. The different development stages of its residential architecture reflect the entire East Mediterranean region of architecture. The urban structural elements are from the second millennium BC of ancient times and medieval periods.

The city is of Nessebar is divided into two parts separated by a narrow human-made passage. The ancient city is on the peninsular side, whereas the more modern part of the town is on the mainland side. Initially, the old town was an island until the Isthmus was built. The wooden windmill located at the causeway to the old town of Nessebar is typically designed to harness the fierce winds at the Black Sea coast. It is believed to be from the 17th to 19th century Bulgarian Revival period. The city is splendidly built with its mixture of historic beauty and modern culture.

Over the due course of its existence, this historic city has become the evidence of various civilizations and cultures. On several occasions, Nessebar has put itself on the frontier of a threatened empire because of its rich historical heritage. Nessebar is culturally rich, with a history running across many centuries. The city now is divided into a modern section and old historical section.

Keep reading the article to know more about this ancient city.


The history of Nessebar goes back to the early Bronze Age of more than 3,000-year-old history when the Thracians inhabited it in the 12th century BC. The underwater archaeological excavations exposed the chronological periods of six different empires and eras, starting from the Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians to the Turks. The chronicles have largely been divided into the ancient and medieval periods. The excavated fortifications revealed the remains of an acropolis, an agora, and a temple that belonged to Apollo of the Hellenistic Era.

Later, it became a Greek colony at the beginning of the sixth century BC. The Dorians and the Magara were the main early settlers of the Greek colony at the end of the sixth century BC. Later, it became a major Dorian colony along the Black Sea coast. The ancient Greeks built many temples, a theater, and a school during this period. It was during this period that the Greeks preserved their culture and trade in the Black Sea region.

Messembria went under the influence of the Roman Empire in 72 AD. After conquering the city, they renamed it Messemvria. After adopting Christianity as their official religion, the Romans built many new churches in Messemvria. During their rule, gigantic walls were built in and around the city to preserve their ever-growing wealth.

The city of Nessebar came under the stronghold of the Byzantine Empire following the division of the Roman Empire; in 395 AD, Nessebar became the center for the Byzantine cultural realm during the medieval period. The impressive part of the early Byzantine period is the large central hall, supported by four massive marble columns crowned with Corinthian capitals. The ancient Greek and Roman hot baths (Thermae) were constructed during Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great in the sixth century. These were the place of wash and were important places for social gatherings. Many historical Thermae remains of this era were excavated and preserved.

Between 812 and 927 AD, the first kingdom of Bulgaria was at its peak, following which the city was under Greek and Bulgarian rule alternatively. On many occasions, it changed hands between the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires. It is during this period, under the rule of Khan Khuram, that it was named Nessebar.

Messembria was later annexed by the Ottoman Empire and was called Misivri in the year 1453. They ruled the city for the next five centuries and continued to develop the city. Many Bulgarian revival-style houses were built featuring the characteristic wooden facades. Fine examples of these magnificent structures are still intact. Later, Constantinople captured the city, and it remained under Turkish dominance till 1878.

The most important key aspect of this region's development was the evolution of the trade and monetary system. It is believed that the concept of money started in this city; till then, the barter system was in existence. Nessebar became an important city of trade on the Black Sea coast.

Gold coins were minted in the third century BC, followed by silver coins and bronze coins in the fifth and sixth centuries BC. Even after the town fell into Roman rule in 72 BC, many privileges such as the right to mint its own coinage continued in Nessebar. Nessebar became the trade hub on the Black Sea coast.


Christianity came into existence in Nessebar in 72 BC, after the Romans conquered the city. Many churches were built during their reign. The remains of 12th and 13th-century churches can be found along the streets of Nessebar. The church of Virgin Elesusa and St. Sophia, also known as the oldest metropolitan church, is located on the Northern shore. These are the three-aisled basilicas dating back to as early as the fifth and sixth centuries.

The city of Nessebar is one of the oldest Christian metropolises in Bulgaria, Europe. The 11th-century church of St. John the Baptist is distinguished for its cylindrical dome. St. Stephen church is remarkable for its frescoes of the 16th century. The architectural design of the colorful ceramic plaques and their facade represent

St. Paraskeva church is known for its creative wall decorations with patterns of brick and stone arrangements. St. John Aliturgetos was heavily affected by an earthquake which was later restored. The patterns made out of brick are especially beautiful. St. Gabriel and St. Micheal are the churches of the Holy Archangels. St. Theodore, St. Stephen, and Christ Pantocrator were among other churches built in the 13th and 14th century.

A total of 40 churches survive today, wholly or partly in and around the town, from the Byzantine, Ottoman or Bulgarian rule. The Nessebar churches are rich in architectural heritage and show the gradual improvement of the early Christian basilicas to the medieval domed churches.

Although many of the old churches in Nessebar are not of religious use today, many of the ruins are converted into museums.

Cultural Importance

The Ancient City of Nessebar is excellent evidence of its multilayered historical and cultural heritage. It is the blend of long-lived human existence that has witnessed distinguished historical periods and eras. The remnants of these eras is found in the form of buildings and structures from the Middle ages and the Byzantine empire.

The old town has served as a remarkable spiritual base of Christian culture for over thousands of years. The modified medieval architecture illustrates the characteristic painted decorations and ornamental ceramic art.

Modern-day Bulgaria reflects all stages of development in the architecture and historical culture of Nessebar. The city proudly owns the ancient history and still holds on to its cultural traditions by arranging many festivals and events throughout the year.

Tourists flood the city of Nessebar to celebrate its culture, art, music, and food, along with the locals. The maze cobblestone streets of Nessebar virtually take its tourists through the historical journey of thousands of years behind. The impressive collection of several churches and buildings that are considered as the cultural treasures of Bulgaria is an array of an art gallery.

The streets are filled with restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops. The trading atmosphere still continues throughout the town with street vendors who sell arts and handicrafts. Some medievalcChurches in the old town require repair; apart from that, only conservation and stabilization work is carried out.

The site forms part of the Ancient City of Nesebar UNESCO


Q . What country is the Ancient City of Nessebar in?

A. The Ancient City of Nessebar is located in the peninsula near the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria.

Q. When was the Ancient City of Nessebar built?

A. The Ancient City of Nessebar is believed to be more than 3,000 years old. The Thracians settled first in 1200 BC towards the end of the Bronze Age.

Q. How many churches are in the Ancient City of Nessebar?

A. Nessebar is said to be the town with the highest number of churches, including some of the most famous basilicas. It is also called the 'city of 40 churches'.

Q. What is special about the Ancient City of Nessebar?

A. The Ancient City of Nessebar was declared as an archaeological and architectural reserve in the year 1956 because of its abundant historical structures. And the ancient part of Nessebar has been included in the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO in the year 1983.

Q. How did it get its name?

A. It was during the Bulgarian reign, that the name Nessebar came up. Its origins go back to the old Erkech dialect spoken in the area. Both the forms are derived from the Greek Mesembria.

Editorial credit: Kalina Georgieva /

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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