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    The old settlement of Arbanassi is situated on a high plateau with a view to the hills of Tzarevetz and Trapezitza, four kilometers from Veliko Turnovo. It's distinguished for its impressive houses and churches with rich interior decoration, wood-carving, and mural paintings created in XVI - XVII century. Namely these unique monuments from our architectural and arts heritage are the cause for Arbanassi to be frequently visited not only by tourists but also by scientists, archeologists, historians, architects, and artists. With a tsar decree from 1921 the settlement is declared resort, and in 2000 it is declared "historical settlement" with national significance.


    The Arbanassi annals begin with the earliest written document - the firman by sultan Suleiman the Magnificent from 1538 with which he grants the lands of the modern towns Arbanassi, Lyaskovetz, Gorna Oryahovitza, and Dolna Oriahovitza to the grand vizier Rustem pasha who was sultan's son-in-law. In the mentioned firman the four settlements are under one name - Arnabud Karielare.
    Other pieces of information about Arbanassi we find in the notes of Pavel Djordjic to the Transsylvanian prince Zigmund Bathory from 10 January 1595. Arbanassi is also mentioned by the Catholic bishop in Sofia Petar Bogdan Balishic who visited Veliko Turnovo in 1640. He mentions that up the mountain there was a town where whole Turnovo can be seen and there were about 1000 households.
    The lack of other documents gives a lot of opinions and suggestions of the origin, name and population of Arbanassi. Some scientists accept that it is settled by Bulgarian boyars who came with their peasants from the most western lands after the brilliant victory of Ivan Assen II at Klokotnitza on 9 Mart 1230 when he takes possession of the Arbanassi land. During the Middle Ages Bulgarians called Arbanassi Arbanashka zemia.
    Rakovski says that Ivan Assen married the daughter of the captured kir Theodor Komnin and because of her moved some Greek families in Arbanassi.
    In 1859 the teacher in Veliko Turnovo A.P. Granitski makes a translation of the guidance in Veliko Turnovo issued by Hamamdjiev in Tzarigrad. It says:" The village of Arbanassi is located half an hour from Veliko Turnovo, to the east where the Bulgarian boyars and important people lived in old times with 2000 citizens…" This renaissance teacher from Kotel most precisely defines not only the name but also the origin of the population "settled in old times by the Bulgarian boyars".

    Richer documents (copies and chronicle notes in church books) have remained from XVII - XVIII c. It shows that Arbanassi reaches its economic climax in the second half of the XVII c. and by the end of XVIII c. Then the village had 1000 households and its population consisted of the most eminent trade families. The main occupation of the population was stock-breeding. The occupations connected with them were also developed. These were copper and goldsmith trade. The households also bred silkworms. The four manufactures produced silk that was exported to Tsarigrad and Italy. Viticulture was also typical for this place. The best vineyards were situated around the Balak fountain (Balakova cheshma), Orelcheto, Kamaka, Chukata. The stock-breeders from Arbanassi were famous and looked for in the whole vast empire. Many of them sold even in Baghdad, India, and Persia. They sold meat, fat, hide, and other things and when they came back they brought silk, velvet, spices, herbs, etc. which they sold not only in Arbanassi but also in Turnovo, Gorna Oriahovitsa, Popovo, etc.

    The five churches and the houses built in the years of prosperity are proof of the economical prosperity and welfare in Arbanassi. In the end of XVIII c. as a result of the kurjalii invasions in 1792, 1798, 1810 the village was plundered and set on fire and the epidemic of plague and cholera put an end to what remained from the robbers and fire. The richest traders moved in Wallachia and Russia.
    After 1810 a new settlement started in Arbanassi. These people were Bulgarians from the mountains near Elena and Triavna . But it could not reach the past prosperity and economic climax, and more, with the hattisherif from Gulhan from 1839 its authorities were taken. The development of the small occupations after the Crimean war here almost stops.
    In the course of a several centuries Arbanassi is a stronghold of the Greek influence. Greek language which is official here, the famous Greek school, and also the church liturgy do not influence the national conscience of the local population. The participation of people from Arbanassi in the series of rebellions is weak but this is evidence that the Bulgarian spirit can be felt here. The Kurjievi family is from Arbanassi. The brothers Georgi and Toma Kurjievi, one of them is a teacher and a man of letters, and the other one - Toma is a revolutionist, coordinator of the Chervenovod squad in 1875. Arbanassi is a birth place of Ilarion Dragostinov, a famous figure of the central revolutionary committee, main apostle of the second revolutionary district of Sliven. He perishes in a heavy battle on 10 May 1876 at Vratnika in the Sliven Balkan. During the Russian - Turkish war 11 people from Arbanassi take part as militia men.
    The history of Arbanassi is rich and the names of the people from Arbanassi are recorded in the heroic chronicle. But what has remained nowadays and strikes with its beauty, skill, taste, what reflects the age most brilliantly, are the 144 retained houses with rich interior decoration, 5 churches, and 2 monasteries.

    The dispute about the Arbanassi house development is not less significant than that about the name and origin of the village. It has developed according to the social and economical features of the village and has formed its unique outlook completely on its own, without any replica in other parts in Bulgaria. The opinions of the Arbanassi house explorers respond to the both points of view of the origin of the village. The reasons that this is totally Bulgarian house prevail. The retained houses prove clearly that the oldest ones (stone) are similar to the Turnovo Boyar house. Two of these are retained - Hadji Pop Panayot's and chorbadji Georgi's. Built entirely of stone they are like small fortresses with inner staircases. For protection from the outside they have solid stone sentry box-gates and for the night guard - bays (firidi). The windows are small with iron grids. The second type is a big house with thick stone foundations, the second floor is frame-built, plastered with lime.

These houses are without balconies and bow-windows. The third type, the latest, appears in XVIII c. These houses have open verandah without windows covered with wooden lids witch open towards the garden. Modest and strict on its exterior outlook, without balconies and veranda, with grids on the windows and thickly covered gates, the Arbanassi house strikes with its wealth and luxury of its interior structure. The basement is built of stones, with vault entrances leading to big stables, cellars, and hiding places. Here is also the living place of the guard and the servants. Two staircases lead to the second floor - main and usual. The drawing-room, the summer and winter bed-rooms, the room for the lying-in woman, the kitchen, the oven (fonrio), the bathroom and the cellar are situated on the second floor. The rooms are situated from the both sides of one hallway (fhorismo). What attracts even today in the Arbanassi house is its inner decoration - the ceiling wood-carving, doors, windows, cabinets, plaster decorations of ceilings, jamal, friezes. All this is proof of the artful skill of the builder. In the preserved houses nowadays there is no special difference in their location. It is in the riches and diversity of the decoration which is proof not only of the taste and skills but also of the financial resources of the owner.
    The Arbanassi house is built in the way that it was possible to live in it for a long time without going out except for water from the well in the yard. Every Arbanassi house is surrounded by high stone walls. Every house had a hiding place. These things speak about the uncertainty of the time when the people of this village lived. You can enter the yard of the house through two big oak gates shouldered with big columns and covered with four-layered roof. There is also a small door for a constant connection with the street. There is a small iron door knocker that hammers on a small iron panel. The old Arbanassi fountains with eaves also arouse interest. These are the Kokon and Pazar fountains (Kokonska cheshma, Pazarska cheshma). The first one is opposite the Konstantzaliev's house and it was being built in 1786 by Mehmed Said Aga. On the front side of the fountain there is a stone inscription with relief old Arabic letters. The inscription says: "Light will come in the eyes and soul of those who looks at it and drinks."
    Out of the preserved houses, two are of interest - the Konstantzaliev's house and the Hadjiilyiev's house.

    Beside the Arbanassi houses, other sights of interest are the seven Arbanassi churches and two monasteries: some of the most impressive monuments of Bulgarian art in XIV-XVIII c. These are "The Nativity Church", "Sts Archangels Michael and Gabriel's church", "St Demetrius' church", "St Atanas' church", "St George's church", "Holy Virgin's monastery" and St Nikolas' monastery.
    In architectural plane they are basilicas, one-apse, with semi-cylindrical vault under two-slope roof. They have stone construction; small iron-barred windows and the floors are covered with square bricks. The Arbanassi churches consist of two departments: naos (a men's department) and narthex (a women's deprtment). Usually on the northern side there is a small gallery that ends with small chapel. All the churches are wall-painted. The wall-paintings reveal the development of the painting in its transition to the art of the Bulgarian Renaissance and its connection with the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom - Tarnovgrad.

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