Madara Rider or Madara Horseman (Bulgarian: Мадарски
конник, Madarski konnik) is an early medieval large rock relief
carved on the Madara Plateau east of
Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria,
near the village of Madara. The monument is dated in the very late
7th, or more often very early 8th century, during the reign of
Bulgar Khan Tervel. In 1979 became enlisted on the
1.1 Origin tradition
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
The relief depicts a majestic horseman 23 m (75 ft) above
ground level in an almost vertical 100 m (328 ft)-high
cliff. It is of almost natural size. The horseman, facing right, is
thrusting a spear into a lion lying at his horse's feet, and on the
left a dog is running after the horseman. The carving of the
horseman's halo and garments, as well as the bird in front of the
horseman's face, are barely recognizable due to the erosion and bad
condition of the monument. The relief is similar to the carbon
images found in Saltovo, Soulek,
Pliska and Veliki Preslav.
The meaning and symbolism of the depiction is uncertain, as well its
actual masonry tradition and cultural source.
In the scholarship the origin of the relief is connected with the
Bulgars ethnogenesis – the semi-nomadic equestrian warrior culture
from the Eurasian Steppe. Others saw in the relief resemblance to
the Sasanian rock relief tradition. The hero-horseman is a
common character of Turkic and Iranian-Alanic mythology. It is
sometime considered that the horseman represents or is related to the
Bulgar deity Tangra, while
Vladimir Toporov related it to the Iranian
Others noted a more simple explanation – that the relief represented
Tervel (701–718 AD), or like previously considered and now
Krum (802–814 AD).
Some considered it an example of the
Thracian horseman – a recurring
motif of a deity in the form of a horseman in the Paleo-Balkanic
mythology. The motif typically features a caped horseman
astride a steed, with a spear poised in his right hand. He is often
depicted as slaying a beast with a spear, although this feature is
sometime absent. Initially considered (and later
Konstantin Josef Jireček
Konstantin Josef Jireček and Karel Škorpil, the
assumption was gradually rejected because of differences in the
iconographic details, and the relation with the animals (there's no
The relief probably incorporates both autochthonous Thracian and the
Bulgars cultural cults. The monumental size,
iconography and the details (stirrup, halo, skull-cup, bird etc.) is
generally part of the Bulgar tradition, while the rightward direction
and the lion of the Thracian tradition.
In the 1924–35, beneath the relief (some 250 m north) were
found the remnants of a complex which is considered to have been a
pagan shrine (three-aisled church) and a rectangular building,
probably the ruler's private dwelling, where the ruler did sacral
rituals related to Tangra. At the site was also found a
damaged inscription by Khan
Omurtag which mentions the deity
The complex is commonly dated to the second quarter of the ninth
century, as the 1970s excavations dated the pottery between 8th
and 10th century. Some argue that the earliest buildings were
founded after the conversion to Christianity. Thus the pagan
temple (i.e. church) and the building would have been built on an
early Byzantine basilica. To the west of the building was found
Christian burial, with golden decorated belt, dated c. 900 AD.
Throughout the 20th century, two miles (c. 3.2 km) northeast from
the relief was found another group of buildings, consisting of 5th-6th
century basilica, with inner rectangular structure, which some
interpreted as the pagan temple (but without clear evidence).
Three partially preserved texts in Medieval Greek, carved in the rock,
can be found around the image of the rider. They bear important
information regarding the history of
Bulgaria in the period. The
oldest inscription is the work of
Tervel (701–718 AD), thus it is
considered that the relief was created during his rule or immediately
Bulgars settled in 680–681 AD. The other
inscriptions refer to the Khans
Krum (802–814 AD) and Omurtag
(814–831 AD) who are most likely the ones who ordered the
Justinian the emperor made a treaty [...] the
Bulgars [...] and came
to Tervel. My uncles at
Thessaloniki did not trust the emperor with
the cut-off nose and went back to the Kisiniie [...] one of his [...]
Tervel made a treaty and gave to the emperor five thousand
[...] with my help the emperor scored a fine victory.
[...] gold. He gave eighteen [...] gold the ruler [...] soldiers [...]
a ruler [...] the Greeks (Byzantines) [...] what I gave to you, I will
give you every year, and the emperor sent to the ruler [...] and asked
the ruler Krumesis [...] the ruler [...] divided the gold [...] began
[...] he gave from [...] the ruler Krumesis gave [...] that sea [...]
you did [...] the ruler [...] war they tore the treaties [...] war
[...] then [...] name [...]
[...] he was raised [...] tore and
Omurtag the ruler set by god sent
[...] help to me [...]
Khan sybigi Omurtag, ruler from god [...] was [...] and made sacrifice
to god Tangra [...] itchurgu boila [...] gold [...]
Madara Rider is depicted on the obverse of smaller Bulgarian coins
(1 to 50 stotinki) issued in 1999 and 2000.
A June 29, 2008, official survey on the design of Bulgaria's future
euro coins was won by the Madara Horseman with 25.44 percent of the
Madara Peak on
Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands,
Antarctica is named after the historic site of Madara.
Tourism in Bulgaria
^ a b c d Donchev 1981, p. 41.
^ a b c d Petkov 2008, p. 5.
^ a b c d e Fiedler 2008, p. 202.
^ Donchev 1981, p. 46.
^ a b c d e Sophoulis 2011, p. 83.
^ Donchev 1981, p. 41, 45–46.
^ Donchev 1981, p. 41–42.
^ Fiedler 2008, p. 204.
^ a b Stancheva, Magdalina; Totyu Totev (1996). The Madara Horseman.
Antos. Archived from the original on 20 June 2006.
^ a b Donchev 1981, p. 43.
^ a b Boteva, Dilyana. "Combat against a lion on the votive plaques of
the Thracian Rider (a database analysis)". Thracia. XVI. pp. 213,
^ Lurker, Manfred (1987). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and
Demons. p. 151.
^ Nicoloff, Assen (1983). Bulgarian Folklore. p. 50.
^ Isaac, Benjamin H. (1986). The Greek Settlements in Thrace Until the
Macedonian Conquest. p. 257.
^ Donchev 1981, p. 43–44.
^ Fiedler 2008, p. 204–206.
^ Sophoulis 2011, p. 83–85.
^ Fiedler 2008, p. 207.
^ Sophoulis 2011, p. 84–85.
^ Sophoulis 2011, p. 291.
^ a b Fiedler 2008, p. 205.
^ a b Fiedler 2008, p. 206.
^ Fiedler 2008, p. 205–206.
^ Petkov 2008, p. 5, 11.
^ Petkov 2008, p. 6.
^ Petkov 2008, p. 11.
^ Bulgarian National Bank. Notes and Coins in Circulation: 1999: 1
stotinka, 2 stotinki, 5 stotinki, 10 stotinki, 20 stotinki, 50
stotinki; 2000: 1 stotinka, 2 stotinki & 5 stotinki. – Retrieved
on 26 March 2009.
Bulgaria selected the new eruo design". Info Bulgaria. Archived
from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
Bulgaria Chooses Madara Horseman for National Symbol at Euro Coin
Design". Sofia News Agency Novinite. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
Bulgaria chooses heritage site to adorn euro coins". EU Business.
Archived from the original on November 19, 2008. Retrieved
Donchev, Slavi (1981). The Madara Horseman (PDF). 23–24. ICOMOS.
Petkov, Kiril (2008). The Voices of Medieval Bulgaria,
Seventh-Fifteenth Century: The Records of a Bygone Culture. Brill.
Fiedler, Uwe (2008). "
Bulgars in the Lower Danube region: A survey of
the archaeological evidence and of the state of current research". In
Curta, Florin; Kovalev, Roman. The Other Europe in the Middle Ages:
Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans. Brill. pp. 151–236.
Sophoulis, Panos (2011). Byzantium and Bulgaria, 775-831. Brill.
Vesselin Beschevliev, "Les inscriptions du relief de Madara", Bsl, 16,
1955, p. 212–254 (Medieval Greek, French).
Vesselin Beschevliev, "Die protobulgarischen Inschriften", Berlin,
1963 (Medieval Greek, German).
Веселин Бешевлиев, "Първобългарски
надписи", Издателство на Българската
академия на науките, София, 1979 (Medieval
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Madara Rider.
World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria
Pirin National Park
Primeval Beech Forests1
Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo
Srebarna Nature Reserve
Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
1 with Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Poland,
Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia,