Saturday, 21 July 2012 23:36
Kyustendil is a national balneological resort at an altitude of 500 metres. The ancient name of the town, Pautalia (a town of springs) is Thracian. There are more than 40 mineral springs in the town. The waters have a high content of sulfite compounds. These are used for the treatment of the locomotory system, gynecological and other kinds of diseases. The resort region includes several baths, balneological complexes and others.
A Thracian settlement was founded at the place of the modern town in the 5th-4th centuries BC and the Romans developed it into an important stronghold, balneological resort and trade junction called Pautalia in the 1st century AD. Many Thracian and Roman objects are exhibited in the city's Regional History Museum, most notably an impressive numismatic collection.
The Hisarlaka fortress was built in the 4th century and the town was mentioned under the Slavic name of Velbazhd in a 1019 charter by the Byzantine Emperor Basil II. It became a major religious and administrative centre.
During the reign of Kaloyan of Bulgaria, the town became part of the Second Bulgarian Empire, acquiring its modern name in the 16th century, named after local feudal lord Konstantin Dragash (ruled from 1379 to 1395).
In 1372 the Turks conquered the town. It was known as Köstendil under Ottoman rule. The name Köstendil was derived from Constantine Dragas' name. The city was a sanjak centre initially in Rumelia province, after that in the Bitola and Niš vilayets. It was a kaza centre in the Sofia sanjak of Danube Province until the creation of the Principality of Bulgaria in 1878.
The residents of Kyustendil took an active part in the Bulgarian National Revival and crafts and trade flourished. The town was liberated from Ottoman rule on 29 January 1878.
Because of the favourable conditions that Pautalia offered, i.e. the curative mineral water springs and mild climate people worshipped Asclepius (Roman God of Medicine). In honour of this God, a sanctuary called Asclepion was built, which was second in size after the Epidaurus sanctuary- the biggest one within the Roman Empire.
The archeological excavations recovered not only ancient therms from II- III century, which are restored and exhibited in the town centre, but also the late ancient and medieval fortress in Hissarluka. Other finds include remnants from a city-wall, temples, public buildings decorated with rich mosaics, neighbourhoods, streets with well-preserved pavement, etc. A real masterpiece of the medieval architecture and paintings existing since the time of medieval Velbuzhd is “St George” Church from XII- XIII century, located in the neighbourhood of Kolusha. The mosques “Fatih Mehmed” and “Ahmed Bey”, the Pirgova Tower, Alay, Dervish and Chifte Baths have all been preserved since the Ottoman period. The churches “Uspenie Bogorodichno” (“The Assumption”), “St Mina”, and “St Dimitar”, the school “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” and a number of houses date back to the Renaissance period.
The Kyustendil museum has gathered an extremely rich collection of materials for 130 years of work. Parts of these historical artifacts are displayed in the following exhibitions: Archeological exhibition; Fights for National Liberation in the Kyustendil region displayed in the House- Museum “Ilio Voivoda”; City Life displayed in Enfiedzhieva House; The Saving of Bulgarian Jews – in the museum “Dimitar Peshev”. A rich collection of paintings of Vladimir Dimitrov- The Master as well as works of other famous Kyustendil artists are displayed in the modern building of the Kyustendil art gallery “Vladimir Dimitrov- The Master”.
One of the most emblematic events that annually takes place in Kyustendil is the contest “Miss Kyustendil Spring”. This contest combines pagan and Christian elements as well as contemporary drama art.