Murfatlar Cave Complex

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Murfatlar murals exposed in Constanța Museum

The Basarabi-Murfatlar Cave Complex is a medieval Christian monastery located near the town of Murfatlar (known as Basarabi between 1924–1965 and 1975–2007), Constanța County, Northern Dobruja, Romania. The Complex is a relict from a widespread monastic phenomenon in a 10th century Bulgaria.[1]


The rock churches of Murflatlar, carved into a chalk hill were discovered in 1957. The excavations conducted in 1957–1960 uncovered of a complex of cells-dwellings, 4 small and 2 larger churches, crypts and tombs, all dating from 9th – 11th century.[2][3][4] From the late 7th until beginning of the 11th century this territory was part of the First Bulgarian Empire.[5][6][7]


There are many inscriptions engraved on the walls – 2 in Greek alphabet, 2 in Old Slavonic language (Bulgarian recension), using the Glagolitic script and over 30 using the Cyrillic script. The most numerous are the runic inscriptions of Turkic type – over 60 have been found so far.[8] The same type of runes have been used on the Pliska Rosette and can be found on building materials and on the 9th century walls of the first Bulgarian capital Pliska. The Turkic runes in Murfatlar were based probably on the Kharosthi script.[9] The language of the runes is presumably Bulgar, as suggested by some scholars.[10] According to Romanian researchers, some graffiti, including a Viking navy, were interpreted as Varangian.[11][12] However, they could be carved by the local monks during the Rus' invasion of Bulgaria.[13] Despite numerous attempts at cracking the Murfatlar script, there still isn't a universally accepted decipherment, and it is rather heterogeneous.[14] Nevertheless, it is most likely, that local monks drew their inspiration here.[15]

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  1. ^ Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500–1250, Florin Curta, Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 0521815398, p. 232.
  2. ^ И. Барня. Предварительные сведения о каменныйх памятниках Бесарби, – Dacia, VI, 1962;
  3. ^ I. Barnea, S. Stefanescu. – Din istoria Dobrogei, III, Bucureşti, 1971, 180–233.
  4. ^ I. Barnea, V. Bilciurescu. Şantierul arheologic Basarabi (reg. Constanța), Materiale şi cercetări arheologice, Bucureşti, 6, 1959, 541–566;
  5. ^ Nikolov, G., Centralism and regionalism in Bulgaria during the early Middle ages (end of the 7th— beginning of the 11th century, Централизъм и регионализъм в ранносредновековна България (края на VII— началото на ХІ в.), София 2005, стр. 195.
  6. ^ Political geography of medieval Bulgaria. From 681 to 1018. Петър Коледаров, Издателство на Българска Академия на Науките, София 1979, стр. 55.
  7. ^ A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Author Warren T. Treadgold, Publisher Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0804726302, p. 523.
  8. ^ В. Бешевлиев: Етническата принадлежност на рунните надписи при Мурфатлар. – сп. Векове, 4, 1976, 12–22.
  9. ^ И. Kызласов. Рунические письменности евразийских степей. Восточная литература, РАН, 1994, 327 стр., ISBN 5-02-017741-5=
  10. ^ В. Бешевлиев: Етническата принадлежност на рунните надписи при Мурфатлар. – сп. Векове, 4, 1976, 12–22.
  12. ^ Spinei, Victor (2009). The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth century. Koninklijke Brill NV.p. 54, ISBN 978-90-04-17536-5
  13. ^ Byzantine Military Organization on the Danube, 10th-12th Centuries, Alexandru Madgearu, BRILL, 2013, ISBN 9004252495, p. 27.
  14. ^ “The” Other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans, editors Florin Curta, Roman Kovalev, Publisher BRILL, 2008, ISBN 9004163891, p. 191.
  15. ^ The cave and the dyke: a rock monastery on the tenth-century frontier of Bulgaria. Florin Curta, Studia Monastica 41 (1999), no. 1: 129-149; p. 140.

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