CHIPROVTZI

 

Chiprovtzi is a small town in our day. It is assumed that towards the 13th century, when Saxon ore-miners settled here, Chiprovtzi was granted special privileges. As time went by, the Germans were Bulgarized, but the positions of Catholicism in the town were continuously strengthened owing to the intensive activities of the Franciscan monks. For a long period of time Chiprovtzi was the seat of the Bulgarian Catholic custody, which comprised towns and villages now situated on the territories of Hungary and Roumania. It was one of the centres of Catholic propaganda in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe.

In the 16th -17th centuries, as a result of the growth of ore-mining and its related industry, crafts in Chiprovtzi flourished, and so did trade. Goods were exported to Central and Eastern Europe. Economic prosperity led to a revival in spiritual and cultural life. In different periods Chiprovtzi provided asylum for representatives of the Bulgarian aristocracy, who had survived the Turkish invasion and come to settle here.

In the early 17th century a secular school was founded in which lessons were taught in Bulgarian and Latin. Half the number of the population were Catholics and the rest were Orthodox Christians, but in their work, customs and social life all of them were Bulgarians.

Renowned families prospered in this place - their sons studied abroad, mostly in Italy, attained high religious orders, devoted themselves to different branches of science and scholarship, became engaged in public and political life in the West. They were received by the Pope and the ruling royal courts. They published books. They were part of the European aristocracy, who shared common values and language. Chiprovtzi became one of the political and cultural centres in Bulgaria.

Particularly typical of the Chiprovtzi people was their political agitation in the European courts, where they pleaded for military assistance for a potential uprising aimed at the restoration of the Bulgarian state. In 1688, after the heavy defeat inflicted on Turkey by the Austrian-Polish-Venetian coalition, the Chiprovtzi leader decided that the moment was already ripe. Bulgarians from the whole region took up arms. Chiprovtzi, in  agreement with the coalition, rose in rebellion. But then the military and political situation changed. The rebellion did nor receive armed support by the coalition. It was severely crushed by the janissaries, hardened by their recent defeats. The entire area was ruined and many of its residents fled to the neighbouring Christian countries.

Some historians presume that the failure of the Chiprovtzi insurrection was decisive for the public sentiments in Bulgaria prevailing thereafter. Until then the Bulgarian people had relied on help by the West to liberate themselves from the Muslim oppression. After this uprising their eyes were turned to Russia, which had already begun to gain power.

Following this catastrophe Chiprovtzi and its region were gradually recovered. Nevertheless, on account of a number of mainly economic reasons, Chiprovtzi did never again restore its previous country-wide significance.

Its traditions in the crafts, however, are still vital. The Chiprovtzi rugs are an instance of this; their bright colours are a token of a past epoch, whose lesson is important to both Bulgaria and the Western world.



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