Archaeology: Fifth-century early Christian crypt found near Bulgaria’s Zaldapa Fortress

An early Christian crypt, among the largest in the Balkans, has been discovered by archaeologists near the Zaldapa Fortress close to the village of Krushari in Bulgaria’s Dobrich municipality, it was announced on September 4 2015.

The crypt was found at the site of a bishop’s basilica discovered in the 2014 archaeological season.

Archaeologists said that the dimensions of the burial site were not only among the largest of such finds in Bulgaria but also across the whole Balkan peninsula. It is nearly four metres long, 2.5 metres wide and was 2.5 metres high.

The entrance was walled with stone slabs, which appeared to have been penetrated probably around the 10th century.

Estimated to date from the fifth century, it appears to have been the last resting place of at least one martyr. Practice was for basilicas to be built atop the burial places of martyrs.

The director of the Regional Historical Museum in Dobrich, Kostadin Kostadinov, described the scale of the crypt as “more than impressive”.

“We still do not know exactly what is in it, because we have not finished the excavation,” Kostadinov told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television. Material was being removed, and the archaeological team hoped to find an inscription about who was buried there.

Zaldapa was the largest late Roman and Byzantine fortified town in the interior of Dobrudzha. The fortress is estimated to have been built in the late fourth century CE. The fortified town, believed to have been densely population, covered an area of about 35 hectares.

Estimated to have been founded by Thracians in about the eighth century BCE, the settlement grew larger after the Roman expansion in Thrace. For a short period of time it was the seat of an episcopate and it was the centre of the biggest rebellion against Emperor Justinian I the Great.

(Photo of Zaldapa Fortress: BNR)



The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage.