The Madara Horseman is in the north-east of Bulgaria, 20 km from the town of Shumen, near the village of Madara. It is included in the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List of UNESCO.
The Madara horseman is the only rock relief in Europe from the early Middle Ages.
The Madara Horseman relief was cut in a vertical rock at 23 m height during the 8th century. It measures 2.6 m in height and is 3.1 wide at the base. It comprises a life-size horseman, a lion, a dog, and Greek inscriptions. The horseman is wearing a knee-length garment and is holding the reins in his left hand. With the right hand, he has thrown a short spear with a flag at the lion lying at the horse’s front legs.
This impressive monument marks the victory and the triumph of Khan Tervel, one of the greatest Bulgarian rulers, over Constantinople. To make it of stone was not enough. It had to stand high above. Such a monument required a special place and the scene is its first unusual feature. The unknown sculptor had to work in an almost inaccessible place, 23 m above ground level and he had no opportunity to see his work from the distance. Even now when we get too close to the rock the relief disappears. The entire surface of the relief and inscriptions is 40 sq m.
The creator of the Madara Horseman relief must have been an unusually talented person. The sculptor used three methods for the carving of the figures. First he outlined the images with a 1.5 cm wide and 2 cm deep groove in the rock. Then he hewed out the surrounding surface so that the figures project from it. The third method used was to cover the figures in red plaster. Of course most of this plaster has been destroyed in the course of time.
The Madara Horseman is a symbolic hunting scene in which the hunter is the ruler himself. The figure of the horseman dominates the composition. The action is located in the front part of the composition. The horse and rider together with the lion form a powerful group. The horse has particularly large forms and a splendid curly tail. The figures of the two animals are opposed to one another with great skill. The lion is still alive but in agony. The dog is running forwards and rushes after the horseman.
The inscription hew in the left and right sides of the composition provided information about the event and some of the circumstances related to it. The inscription is in Greek . Unfortunately some parts of text are missing. This first inscription at the Madara horseman was the beginning of the Bulgarian annals.
These three texts and the relief, presenting the victorious scene were actually connected with the international recognition of Bulgaria as a state.