Medieval fortress "Monyak"

Bulgarian sights
Location:  Kardzhali Region, Shiroko pole

Monyak fortress /also called "Mneakos"/ is one of the largest and high located fortresses in the Rhodope mountains near the village of Shiroko pole, Kardzhali Region, on the bank of Studen Kladenets Dam. It is located about 2 km south of the village of Shiroko pole, 11 km east of Kardzhali, 104 km south-east of Plovdiv and approximately 251 km in the same direction of the capital Sofia city.

It was built in XII - XIII century and with its 50 ha Monyak is one of the largest fortresses in the Rhodopes. Its remains are situated an a rocky hill called Shesta krepost /586 m/. Its outer wall is built of stones tightly soldered with plaster and encircles the hill from the north.


The entrance is situated on the western side and has a tower on both sides. The northern part is a trapezoidal solid bastion and the southern had a few floors and is today preserved to a height of 7.80 m. The wall continues south reaching a 50 m high impassable rocky cliff.

A citadel with solid trapezoidal bastion walls occupies the highest soutern part of the highland. During research works several buildings were localised:

  • A building with quadrant footprint situated in the inner part of the citadel.
  • A representative building located west under the citadel. It was at least two-storey and the lower floor was dug into the rock. Four quadrent pillars carry the upper floor which floor is even with the rocks. It can be stated for sure that this was a storage reservoir with a civil building under it.
  • Second building located in the axis at the entrance of the outer wall. It is of the kind described above. The ground floor is dug into the rock and the large amount of pottery discovered there indicates that this floor used to be a food warehouse. More than 20 utensils were found with pitchers and jugs prevailing. The entrance is from the west, flanked by two rectangular towers.


The first evidence of the fortress belong to the Third Crusade /1189-1192/. On their way to Palestine the western knights conquered Monyak, which was an important Byzantine stronghold in the region at that time. In the last decade of the XII century and the passage of the Crusader army, Monyak was under Byzantine control again. Knights of the Cross returned to the important fortress in the valley of the river Arda after the Fourth Crusade and the conquest of Constantinople in April 1204 A garrison was probably placed in Monyak then.

Monyak is mentioned in the writings of George Akropolit and Theodore Skutariot in the XIII century. The chronicler and marshal Geoffroy Villehardouin says it was there that the Latins learned of the death of Emperor Baudouin Flanders. The Baron Meeting which elects Henry for emperor of the Latin Empire was conducted there. During the XIII and XIV centuries Monyak as well as the whole Ahridos area, was the border territory between the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and the Byzantine Empire. The fort's strategic location made it the residence of the governors of Ahridos, including several famous Byzantine generals.

Monyak fortress has a direct visual connection with the Vishegrad fortress, situated on the opposite bank of Studen kladenets dam and the hill reveals a splendid view to the mountains, the valleys, hills and the dam itself.


The village of Shiroko pole is easily reacheble since it is located on the railroad line Haskovo - Kardzhali. From the village to the fort you will find a well-formed route, marked with a special sign. The terrain is steep, almost vertical in places.


Several hotels, villas and guest houses, holiday homes and restaurants are available for tourists in the town of Kardzhali.


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