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The Meshchi Tower

The Meshchi Tower, also known as the Clock Tower, is among Vratsa's symbols. It is the larger one of the two preserved medieval towers in its centre rising to a height of 13.4 m. Vratsa's town hall building is nearby.

There are two theories about the origin of the tower's name. "Meschet", "mechet" and "mescit" are forms of pronouncing the word that is still used by some Turkic peoples for a mosque. However, there is another story (supported by a written report by Philip Stanislavovich, Catholic Archbishop,) that there was a family that took Islam, which had the name Mischii and were descendants or relatives of local rulers of Proto-Bulgarian and Cuman origin – the Shishmanovites).

Similar defence towers, as part of fortified dwellings, were built throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, and the process continued across Bulgarian lands during the Ottoman period. These towers were inhabited by Turkish sipahi (warriors), pashas and beys, and were placed in one of the corners or in the middle of a fortress wall.

In Latin they used to be called kastrum domini - the master's fortress. The French word for them was 'donjon'. All these names essentially signified the same thing - a feudal castle, as Prof. Bozhidar Dimitrov explains. Vratsa is the only Bulgarian city that had two, instead of one, fortified towers dating back to the Ottoman period.

Access to the 'donjon' was secured via a drawbridge or a ladder several meters high. Thus, the towers were well protected against attacks because the ladder could easily be removed in the event of a threat. The entrance to the Meshchi Tower was initially on the west side, at a height of more than two metres. Subsequently, this door was stonewalled and the new entrance was opened on the east side at ground level. The tower walls are 1.8 metres thick. The tower has a ground and three other floors separated by beam structures and used for living. They could be  reached by a wooden ladder. Interestingly, a fireplace features on each floor. The third floor is adapted for defence - there are special facilities in the corners and in the middle of the walls. Three of them jut out as bay windows, supported by brackets, with openings between them intended for pouring hot liquids onto the enemy. The third floor is covered with a dome made of carved stones sitting on four arches. The tower has 12 mazgals (firing holes).

It was supposedly built in the 17th century. In late 19th century they transformed it into a clock tower. The tower was renovated in 2006, with a dial installed, as well as new artistic lighting. Tourists have no access to the tower's inside.


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