Madara Horseman

World Monuments Watch
Madara, Bulgaria

1996 and 1998 World Monuments Watch

It is the definitive icon for Bulgarians: a carved rock relief depicting the life-size forms of a horseman trailed by a running dog and a speared lion caught beneath the crushing hooves of the horse. Inscriptions in Greek on either side describe the early history of the Bulgarian state, founded in 681. The scene presents itself 25 meters up a 100-meter-high cliff in the Madara plateau in northeastern Bulgaria. But this enduring signature of Bulgarian culture flakes away with every season. Exposure to the elements – especially freeze-thaw cycles – microorganisms, pollution erosion, and cliff face shearing and earth tremors threaten the destruction of the scene. Its preservation presents a technical conundrum: the relief was meant to be of the open air but some Bulgarian experts have concluded that installing a permanent roof over it is the only solution-and as soon as possible so that stabilization of the carvings can begin.

Since the Watch

Since 1998, solutions have been sought to address the long-term conservation of the relief. An international research project was conducted by experts from Bulgaria's Academy of Fine Arts and from laboratories in France and Germany in 2005-2007. The study tested the efficacy of different treatments for biological growth and explored the prospect of installing a roof above the relief to impede further growth. The m

Last updated: June 2018.

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