The Madara Horseman is a stone bas-relief, a figure of a warrior defeating a lion, carved in life-size on a steep rock near the village of Madara, 15 kilometers from the town of Shumen in northeast Bulgaria in the eighth to ninth century. Madara was the main sacred site of the first Bulgarian kingdom before Bulgaria converted to Christianity in the 11th century. According to one theory, the rock depicts Khan Tervel. Another theory has it that the rock relief was created by the ancient Thracians and depicts a Thracian god. According to the third theory the image of the Slavic god Svyatovit was carved on the rock around the end of the 6th century AD.
The bas-relief (2.6 m by 3.1 m.), situated at a height of 23 m, shows a horseman with a dog slaying a defeated lion with his spear. There are three Byzantine inscriptions carved on the rock around the image of the horseman, which tell about the events that took place in this area between 705 and 801. Professor Veselin Beshevliev in his book “The Proto-Bulgarians” points out that the oldest of the inscriptions is the work of Khan Tervel, under the guidance of the khan the monument itself was created. The authorship of other inscriptions is attributed to the khans Krum (796-814) and Omurtag (814-831). According to the most widespread theories, the Madara Rider is a representation of a Thracian rider, a proto-Bulgarian deity, a generalized image of a hero from a national epic or a triumphal image of a Bulgarian ruler (khan).
The figures of a lion and a dog were made later, after the appearance of the Proto-Bulgarian ruler headed by Asparuh Khan. In the opinion of contemporary researchers, the characteristic sign that the horseman is not of Thracian origin, but of Bulgarian origin, is the presence of a stirrup. It was brought to Europe and the Balkans by nomadic peoples – including the Bulgarians. In the image of the horse, you can see another important and characteristic feature of the Bulgarians, namely the intertwined horse’s tail – a symbol of order and discipline, which were the banner of the Bulgarian horde. The dog next to the rider was a sacred animal of the proto-Bulgarians.
The Madara Horseman was rediscovered only in 1872 by the Hungarian archaeologist, ethnographer, geographer and artist Felix Kanitz. The next researcher of the monument was Karel Shkorpil – the founder of archaeology in Bulgaria.
The Madara Horseman is a part of the National Historical and Archaeological Reserve “Madara” and, due to its exceptional value, it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979. In 2008 it was declared a national symbol of Bulgaria.
For the first time the Madara Rider was depicted on the coins of the Bulgarian kingdom in denominations of 5 and 10 levs in 1930. The 1930 coins were minted from copper-nickel alloy, 1941 from iron, and 1943 from nickel-plated steel.
Bulgarian kingdom. Boris III (1918-1943). 5 levs, 1930. Copper-nickel alloy; 26.13 mm; 7.75 g. Mintage of 20,001,000 pieces.
Bulgarian Kingdom. Boris III (1918-1943). 10 levs, 1943. Nickel-plated steel; 30 mm; 10.9 g. Mintage of 25,000,000 pieces.
In the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the image of the Madara Horseman was placed on the commemorative coin for the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state, denomination of 2 leva.
NRB. 2 leva, 1981. 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian statehood. Copper-nickel alloy; 30 mm; 11 g. Circulation of 25,000 pieces.
In 1992, the Republic of Bulgaria placed the image of the Madara Horseman on nickel-brass coins of 1, 2, and 5 leva, copper-nickel coins of 10 leva, and brass coins of 10, 20, and 50 leva.
Republic of Bulgaria. 1 lev, 1992. Nickel-brass; 23.2 mm; 4.1 g.
Republic of Bulgaria. 10 lev, 1992. Copper-nickel alloy; 30.2 mm; 9 g.
Since June 5, 1997, after the monetary reform (1000 old levs = 1 new lev), the image of the Madara Horseman has been placed on coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki.
Republic of Bulgaria. 50 stotinki, 1999. Copper-nickel alloy; 22.5 mm; 5 g. Circulation 15 607 000 pcs.
By the end of 2014, Bulgaria plans to join the Eurozone. The future Bulgarian 2 euro coin may look like this.
The national symbol has not been ignored by the Bulgarian rewards system either. By a decree of the Presidium of the National Assembly of August 4, 1966, the Order of the Madara Horseman was established. It was awarded to “diplomatic, public and military representatives of foreign powers in Bulgaria for the establishment, strengthening and development of friendly relations with the NRB. Military officers were awarded the order with swords.
The author of the design of the Order is an artist, one of the greatest masters of modern Bulgarian art, Academician of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Dechko Uzunov. The order was made at the State Mint.
The first recipient on December 3, 1966 was Dr. Karoy Prat, Hungarian Ambassador to Bulgaria from 1962 to 1966.
After the fall of the Communist regime in Bulgaria in 1989, the order was retained as politically neutral. The new type of the order was established by the Law on Orders and Medals of Bulgaria, June 13, 2003. It is awarded to “Bulgarian and foreign nationals for specially significant achievements in the establishment and strengthening of bilateral relations with the Republic of Bulgaria. The Order is the third oldest in the Bulgarian award system.
Statute of the Order:
The Order of the Madara Horseman is awarded to foreign and Bulgarian citizens for special merits in the establishment, strengthening and development of bilateral relations with the Republic of Bulgaria:
– diplomatic representatives accredited in the Republic of Bulgaria and Bulgarian diplomatic representatives accredited in other countries;
– foreign and Bulgarian public figures and military persons.
(2) The ribbon of the Order of the Madara Rider has the colors of the national Bulgarian flag. The Order has two degrees, first and second, and two categories – without swords (awarded to civilians) and with swords (awarded to military persons):
– first degree: a miniature image of the Madara Rider on top of a rosette with golden rays; worn around the neck;
– second degree: a miniature image of the Madara Rider on top of a rosette with silver rays; worn around the neck.
NRB. Order “Madar Rider” 1st degree with swords. The badge of the order is made of silver.
NRB. Order of the Madar Rider, First Class, without swords. The badge of the Order is made of silver.
Republic of Bulgaria. Order of the Madar Rider, 2nd Class, with swords. The badge of the order is made of silver.
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