The Madara Horseman
One of the most difficult artistic tasks is to synthesize a great idea, a message to contemporary and future generations. Such was the task of the sculptor who created the rock relief known as the Madara Horseman. He performed his work splendidly. The sculptor carved a relief of a majestic horseman 23 m above ground level in an almost vertical hundred-metre high cliff. The horseman is thrusting a spear into a lion lying at his horse's feet. A dog runs after the horseman.
The Madara Horseman was carved at the very beginning of the 8 th Century, about three decades after the foundation of the Bulgarian State (681). The sculpture marks a triumph – the Byzantine Empire had recognized the new state. Furthermore, the Madara horseman marks a new epoch, the beginning of the new European world. Even today the horseman remains unique - nothing like it has ever been made.
The work of the unknown sculptor is indeed magnificent. The horseman on the rock inspires admiration and excitement even today - thirteen centuries after its creation.
The profound historical meaning of the relief is further clarified by the inscriptions around the figures. These inscriptions were made in three consecutive stages and are related to important events. They are the earliest proto-Bulgarian inscriptions, the earliest written data on Bulgarian history.
The Madara Plateau is located in the Danube plain; it rises gradually up to its highest point and then suddenly drops like a stone waterfall to fertile fields. The rock cliff is one hundred metres high. The surface of the soft sandstone is furrowed by the stratification of numerous millenia. The hidden tensions have cracked the surface. The wind and rain lash at it.
Low down, in the crevices and small caves, man lived in prehistoric times. In antiquity the Thracian tribes inhabited the plain. There was an ancient Thracian sanctuary in the large open cave under the rocks, which is known today as the Nymphs' Cave. Succulent plants and trickles of water fill this place with the natural juices of life respected by the Thracians and inhabited by their gods.