The Town of Koprivshtitsa Architectural and Historical Reserve
- Posted on in Cultural - Region the Balkan Mountains
The town of Koprivshtitsa is located in the heart of the Sredna Gora mountain range.
It is 110 km from Sofia, 24 km from Pirdop, 22 km from Strelcha, and 90 km from Plovdiv. In 1952, it was declared the only city-museum in the country, and since 1971 it has been an architectural and historical reserve, with a total of 388 architectural, historical, artistic, and ethnographic monuments. In 1978, it was recognized as a national architectural reserve of international importance and as an international tourist destination.
There are many legends concerning the town’s beginnings. One relates that the location boasted a plentiful store of kop, and that it was particularly fertile, a popular resting place for caravans and shepherds herding their flocks. It was here that proto-Bulgarians settled with their herds – people known as “Zhupa” – and that was the origin of Koprivshtitsa.
Another legend has it that Koprivshtitsa was the base for the “lords of Rila” who settled the area with their livestock and petitioned the Ottoman sultan to proclaim them the rulers of Koprivshtitsa. He issued a decree granting them wide-ranging privileges. In the decree the sultan referred to Koprivshtitsa as the “Woman’s Field” – and that is what the Ottomans called Koprivshtitsa in the years that followed.
A third legend claims that the village was settled by Bulgarian fugitives, heirs of the numerous Bulgarian tribes of Bolyari, herdsman, and tenders of livestock, who removed to the region after Bulgaria came under Ottoman rule (at the end of the 16th century). Among them were three shepherds – Lambo, Toroman, and Arnautin, who founded the enclaves that today bear their names.
All of the legends agree that Koprivshtitsa was founded at the end of the Second Bulgarian Empire (the end of the 14th century).
From 1793 to 1819, Koprivshtitsa was engulfed in flames three times. The third time the town was almost completely destroyed, and after that the current city foundations were laid. The new community gradually expanded as the local population of merchants and artisans contributed to its development. Koprivshtitsa has always been of historical interest, since it is associated with the rise of the Bulgarian people during the country’s Age of Awakening (18th – 19th centuries).
The architecture in Koprivshtitsa reflects the historical development growth of Bulgarian traditional architecture that can still be observed in its various forms at present. The first stages of its development closely resemble the architecture found in the communities of Zheravna, Tryavna, Samokov, Etropole, Tetevan, and other locations. In 1956, a museum directorate was established in Koprivshitsa with the goal of saving, preserving, and popularizing the town’s cultural and historical heritage. Among the museums and local attractions are The Oslekov House, The Lyutova House, The Todor Kableshkov Museum, The Dimcho Debelyanov Museum, The Georgi Benkovski Museum, and The Liuben Karavelov Museum.
The Oslekov House was built in 1856 by the wealthy Koprivshtitsa merchant Nencho Oslakov. Of particular interest are the richly decorated walls and columns that suggest the lifestyle enjoyed by a wealthy Koprivshtitsa family during the 19th century. The museum exhibit includes unique items, such as women’s and men’s clothing, a collection of Koprivshtitsa decorative embroidery (lacework), and knitted stockings.
The structure that is now The Lyutova House Museum, also known as The Topalova House, was built in 1854 by the family of the influential Koprivshtitsa tax collector Stefan Topalov, then sold to a wealthy Koprivshtitsa merchant, Petko Lyutov. On the ground floor can be seen authentic Koprivshtitsa felt objects of uncarded wool. On the second floor is a collection of murals and woodcarvings. A fountain of rosewater freshens the air in the upper salon. The guestroom is appointed with Koprivshtitsa wall hangings and women’s clothing, recalling a traditional lifestyle.