The Meshchii Tower, also known as the Clock Tower, is among the most emblematic sights of Vratsa. It is 13.4 meters high and is the larger of the two preserved medieval towers in the city center, located near the town hall building. The tower is a testimony to the rich history and culture of the city, and its preservation serves as a reminder of Vratsa's past and its place in Bulgarian history.
The Warden of Vratsa: Unraveling the History of the Meshchii Tower
There are two theories about the origin of the tower's name. "Meshchet", "mechet" and "mescit" are forms of pronunciation of the word still used by some Turkic peoples for mosque. However, there is another story (supported by a written report of Philip Stanislavovich, a Catholic archbishop) that there was a family that converted to Islam, which bore the name Meshchii and were descendants or relatives of local rulers of Proto-Bulgarian and Cuman origin - the Shishmanovites).
Similar defensive towers, as part of fortified dwellings, were built throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, and the process continued in Bulgarian lands during the Ottoman period. These towers were inhabited by Turkish sipahias (warriors), pashas and beys and were placed in one of the corners or in the middle of a fortress wall. In Latin they were called kastrum domini - the lord's fortress. The French word for them was "dungeon". All these names essentially mean 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 from the Ottoman period.
The Meshchii Tower: A Journey Through Time and Architecture
Access to the "keep" was provided by a drawbridge or ladder several meters high. The towers were thus well protected against attack, as the ladder could easily be removed in the event of a threat. The entrance to the Meshchii tower was originally on the west side, at a height of over two meters. This door was subsequently stoned up and a new entrance opened on the east side at ground level. The walls of the tower are 1.8 meters thick. The tower has a ground floor and three more floors, separated by beam structures and used for living. They were reached by a wooden ladder. Interestingly, there is a fireplace on each floor. The third floor is adapted for defense - there are special facilities in the corners and in the middle of the walls. Three of them project like bay windows supported by brackets, with openings between them designed for pouring hot liquids on the enemy. The third floor is covered with a cupola of cut stones resting on four arches. The tower has 12 mazgals (hearths).
It is supposed to have been built in the 17th century. At the end of the 19th century, they transformed it into a clock tower. The tower was renovated in 2006 and a dial was installed.