History of Sandanski
The town of Sandanski
The specific natural, geographical and climatic characteristics of the town of Sandanski, as well as the presence of mineral springs, are the reasons for its habitation for thousands of years (II millennium BC). The town of today has been built over a number of antient layers.
During the Roman period these lands were inhabited by the Thracian tribe Maedi, which is the tribe of the great warrior Spartacus. With his strength, courage and pursuit of justice he became the leader of the biggest slave rebellion in the Roman Empire.
In the same period Sandanski became the most significant early Christian center in the region. Evidence for that is its rich archeological heritage, preserved by Archeological Museum of Sandanski. The museum is built “in-situ” over the ruins of Bishop John’s Basilica (IV c.) and is one of the few of its kind. On the territory of the town is located and preserved part of the antient town – Early Christian Complex (IV-VI c.) and the Bishop’s Basilica (IV-VI c.) – the most representative and significant monument of early Christian art in the region.
Later on, (VI-VII c.) the silverless saints Kozma and Damian settled in this place and helped the sick with the healing powers of the mineral water, climate and Christian faith. The place of their antient clinic is known today as Miroto spring, and for their home they chose a small monastery, which nowadays bears their names – “St. st. Kozma and Damian the Silverless”. In their honour the settlement was called “Sveti Vrach” – holy healers.
The big movement of the European tribes at the end of 6th and the beginning of 7th century put an end to the heyday of antient Sandanski. It wasn’t before the beginning of 20th century that the small village of Sveti Vrach began its economic and cultural progress, which is evident to us today. In 1929 Sveti Vrach was declared a town and in 1947 was renamed Sandanski – in honour of the Bulgarian revolutionary and leader Yane Sandanski. From then on Sandanski continuous the tradition to use the local natural resources and in combination with the modern technologies and new knowledge to help people, suffering from various deseases.
The town of Melnik
Nowadays Melnik is a small town but its history takes us away back into the past. Once, Thracians and Romans lived here, and the Slavs gave it its name after the surrounding sand pyramids – melove.
At the beginning of XIII c. (1215) Melnik became the capital of the independent feudal principality of Despot Alexius Slav. This was the time when the town went through its first big economic and cultural boom. Ruins from the Despot’s fortress, as well as several temples, built or reconstructed during this period, can be seen today on Sveti Nikola hill, just over Melnik.
Because of its border location between Bulgaria and Byzantium, the town of Melnik, often changed its sovereignity and was part of the territories of Bulgaria, Byzantium, the Empire of Nicaea and Serbia. The most important monument from this time is the Boyar House – the biggest partly preserved medieval house in Bulgaria.
The town went through its second economic boom in ХVІІІ-ХІХ c. when the development of wine and tobacco production started. The Melnik wine was exported all over Europe, mainly in England and Austria. At that time Melnik was populous, it had more than 70 churches, three all-boys schools and one all-girls school, and four monasteries functioning in its vicinities. Melnik was also famous for its library.
In the second half of XIX c. the town began to decline. In 1912 it became part of free Bulgaria, although burned down due to the men of Yane Sandanski.
In 1968 Melnik was declared a town-museum and architectural reserve of international importance.