Roman fortress and sanctuary Mezdra-Kale

The Roman sanctuary and fortress lies in the Northwest part of Bulgaria, on the outskirts of the modern town of Meadra. It is situated on the key point and defended the road towards the big towns of the imperial provinces Moesia Infeior and Thracia. The fortress was built on an easily defensible spur about 200m above sea level, with commanding views to the north, south and west and the only access over level ground from the east. It was originally protected on the south by Iskar (antique Oescus) river. Its strategic position made it one of the most important fortresses in this part of Empire. The site is remarkable because the defensive walls still survive, in places more than 7m high.

The first researches on the site started in 1963 and were interrupted in 1989. It discovered a well-preserved fortress (wrongly dated to the Ages of First and Second Bulgarian Kingdom 7-14 centuries AD) and several layers belong to the Late Roman Period.

In 2003 the excavations were renovated with the financial support of the Municipality of Mezdra. The new studies of the site reversed its dating and interpretation. It determined that the fortification of the fortress was build in the Roman Ages and nowadays it represent one of the earliest well preserved Roman military buildings on the Balkan Peninsula. The biggest question related to the history of this site is the presence of numerous artifacts improved functioning of the Roman Sanctuary in this place. Through 2006 the archaeologists found several architectural details with certain provenance from Antique temple. The specialists dated these artifacts to the 2 century AD. How these evidences refer to the existence of the fortress is the curiosity problem that will append new facts to the history of the Roman province Moesia.

Defensive wall

In the beginning of the researches in 1974 the archaeologists found in this place a well preserved remains of fortification system which raise more then 6 m in high. That was the reason for the former excavators to date this wall to the medieval period. Thirteen years later a new team brought this conclusion in question. The new researches here confirm the building of the wall not later then 4 century AD. However, the biggest question arose when in 2005 the archaeologist found a base appertained to an earliest wall destroyed probably in the middle of the 3 century AD. Excavation over the coming years will establish the chronology of these two periods.


During the campaign of 2003 a rectangular big tower has been uncovered. A tower butts out by 1 m before the curtain wall and its first floor was dug into the ground. The materials found on the flour show that the tower has been destroyed in the middle of the 3rd century. Over its ruins a new stonewall was build.


In 2005 a gate of the gateway tower type has been discovered, belonging to an earlier construction period. The remains show that before the middle of the 3rd century the gate was plug up.

Earliest wall

Remains of earliest fortification were found during the excavations in 2006. This is a wall with 2 and half meters thickness and covered up by destruction and foundations of 4th century buildings. The wall has build for defending the sacred place and can be dated in 2nd century AD.

Sector 2

A prehistorical house. Sector 2 keeps evidence related to the earliest period of inhabitance in this place. The artifacts found here belong to the Late Chalcolitic culture: Krivodol-Salcutsa - Bubanj Hum Ia (spread out over the territory of present NW Bulgaria, Eastern Serbia and SW Romania between 4500-4000 BC). During the campaigns of 2003-2005 a big prehistorical dwelling was studied. Between the rich collection of artifacts found here are objects made by copper, well preserved vessels, and flint tools and weapons.

The antique layers in Sector 2 show several stages of occupation. The earliest one is marked with two layers belonged to a dismantled building. After demolition of this building the layer of waste mortar leveled the terrain up. The propognacolum (area between inner and outer wall) was filled in with waste of the robbed building material (stones, broken bricks and mortar). In 2003 among these reused stones was found a column with Latin inscription, which date the level to the end of 4 and the beginning of the 5 century AD.

Proteihizma (outer wall)

Towards the beginning of the 5 century a new construction period began. After the numerous inroads of the Huns, repairs of the earlier wall have been established and a new wall (proteihizma) was build in front of the main wall. The proteihizma is between 5 and 6 m from the wall. A Latin column with inscription provides evidence of the exact time of building of the second wall - the very beginning of the 5 century AD.

Religious fireplaces

For the past season a deep soundings have been made at several places of the Roman fortress. Numerous ritual fireplaces were discovered. Finds have been established from the first half of the 3 century AD. The comparative analysis of the data shows existence of the big Roman Sanctuary on this place. The discovered materials are exceptionally rich: silver, bronze and copper coins, red slipped vessels and cult objects.


A considerable number of architectural details descended from the present day Mezdra. Among them are votive tablets, parts of statues, marble fragments of friezes, bases, capitals, as well as the marble decoration of the walls. The numerous fragments with inscriptions show the presence of the monumental architecture related probably with sacred building. The place of this building (Antique Temple) is unidentified. The main goal for upcoming season will be location of the Antique Temple.


С. Машов, Г. Ганецовски, К. Лука. Сондажни проучвания на праисторическо селище и антична крепост “Калето” край Мездра. – Археологически открития и разкопки през 2003 г., София, 2004, 41-43.

К. Лука. Находка от керамични калъпи за производство на съдове с апликирана украса от крепостта Калето край Мездра – Археология, XLVII, 1-4, 2006, 161-170.

К. Лука. Античните паметници в община Мездра. Мездра, 2004.


Report for the archaeological excavations in 2003

Report for the archaeological excavations in 2004