At the end of the VII century Bulgars appeared close to the Danube and founded in this area a state recognized by the Byzantine Empire in year 681 and christianized during the time of the Tzar Boris the first (852-889)
Even without exact proof it appear that between 864-971 Dobrogea was owned by the Bulgars. The Bulgarian state knew its maxim period of expansion and economical -cultural blossoming during the time of Tzar Simeon (893-927) but at the same time it started conflicts, internal and external with the Hungarians.
The decline of the Bulgarian state began under the Tzar Petru (927-969) and it stopped when the Byzantines invaded the eastern half of their state. To be able to defend his territory against the attacks by the nations coming from the east and to control this strategic point of commerce in the south east of Europe, the Byzantine emperor Ioan Tzimiskes reorganized military and administration in this area after a victorious campaign from 971.
He split into two sides this area Bulgaria and Dristra, each one commanded by a general, and rebuilt or repaired the citadel from the old Roman line of fortification from the Danube: Durostorum (Silistra), Axiopolis (south of Cernavoda), Capidava (between Harsova and Cernavoda on the Danube banks), Carsium (Harsova), Troesmis (Turcoaia), Dinogetia (Garvan-jud Tulcea) Noviodunum (Isaccea).
Because the residence of the governor was situated at Durostorum for its defence,a strong fortification was built on the island Pacuiul lui Soare situated at 18-20 km downstream. Cutting Danube waters at a length of 6 km, the island Pacuiul lui Soare it is nowadays a natural fortification which hide on its north - east side between bushes of elm, cherry, and other trees, the ruins of the old Byzantine citadel which be seen today 10%, the rest rest beeing covered by the Danube.
The citadel Pacuiul lui Soare - the best defended citadel among those that are known in this region was built between 972-976 by the troops of the emperor Ioan Tzimiskes and reflects the importance of the Byzantine domination of the Danube and the greatness of the dynasty of the Macedonian emperors. We suppose today that the citadel was built by the Byzantines on the ruins of an old one, re-using the construction material and using new techniques of construction. Because the soil was composed of sediments, there existed two ways to assure the safety of the walls: a deep foundation or a wood structure which necessitated a huge quantity of stone. The second version was preferred the foundation of the inner wall being built from oak stakes stuck into the ground at intervals and over them placed oak beams, placed longitudinally and transversely with the free space filled with mortar (a mix of lime, gravel and stone cumbs).
The citadel was at first a navale base as we know from the numerous navale installations discovered here, and the geographical situation. Situated on an old sea from the Danube called until now Dervent (which in Turkish it means passage) the fortification was by its position not only a shield for the city of Durustorum but a strong fortified place at the frontier of the Danube for the capital of the Byzantine Empire itself. A river such as the Danube, without control and guard, with many enemies around it, makes attack of Durustorum easier and leads to the possibility of createing a big breakthrough into the defensive Byzatine system from the north east of the Balkan Peninsula.
The initial destiny of the citadel was mantained for only 10 years because after the death of the emperor Ioan Tzimiskes (976), the Bulgarians revolted and took back in their possession the lost territories from 971, the Byzatines remaining only in northern Dobrogea and some cities situated at the line of the Danube, including Durustorum. In the year 1001 after an expedition the Byzantines occupied again the north east of Bulgaria, Southern Dobrogea, but the region to the north of the Danube. The citadel lost its military purpose because the danger was’nt represented by the people from Kiev who were sailors, but the Pecenegs who fought on horse back. In those conditions the defensive system was adapted increasing the number of the infantry and cavalry to Pacuiul lui Soare.
The next 25 years passed in peace and prosperity, a fact explained by the diplomatic strategy of Vasile II Bulgaroctonul (976-1025) against the Pecenegs. The defensive measures for the interests of the soldiers who owned land, increasing taxes on the rich people and rebuilding the settlements of the right shore of the Danube contributed to the economic and military consolidation of the state. This evolution of the regional situation which influenced the life of the citadel Pacuiul lui Soare which knew a period of great development archaeological research attests the beginning of the XIth century a large circulation of the Byzatine goods, of enamelled ceramic, ornaments, small crosses and coins.
After the year 1036 the attacks of the Peceneges became numerous and citadels like Dinogetia, Dervent and Capidava were destroyed. After that, the power of the Pecenegs diminished because they are defeated by the people from Kiev. The Byzantines used that moment to make peace with the Pecenegs which let economic life grow again.
In 1048 the Pecenegs invaded the Byzantine Empire and took into their possession entire regions to the south of the Danube including.
In the second half of the XI century the citadel of Pacuiul lui Soare was the target of an attack which destroyed the settlement by fire. After a break of 50 years because many attacks by Cumans and by floods the life in the citadel returned at the middle of the XIII-th century. The former Byzantine citadel was now a relic, partially ruined with a surface of 4 hectares. Between the XIII-XIV centuries was added to the north-west side of the citadel a new inner wall in stone and mortar which gave to these settlement the character of a town. In this way the citadel became one of the most important commercial centres in the region. For unknown reasons in the years 1421-1422 the citadel is abandoned by the inhabitants and ceases to exists.
The Religious life inside the Pacuiul lui Soare citadell
One of the historians, considers that after the victorious campaign of the emperor Ioan Tzimiskes in the year 971, the Byzantines remade the Metropolis at Durustorum, lasting until the middle of the XII century when the Metropolis of Vicina was.
Some documents of the emperor Vasile the II Bulgaroctonul (The killer of Bulgarians) said that in 1019-1020 Durustorum became a diocis under the Archbishop of Ohrida of Bulgaria. Later it became a metropolis.
The increase in number of inhabitants determined the creation of an Archbishopric named Vicina. The Holy bishop from Vicina, Iachint was named in 1359 by the Patriarch of Constantinopol as Patriarch of entire Wallachia. The place where really was this Vicina is very controversial existing at the same time in many places but in recent years a new idea which is sustained by various evidence says that Vicina was on the Pacuiul lui Soare island. From old documents we know that the Mitropolis of Vicina was situated on an island on the Danube, and from italian and greek sources we know that Vicina had a harbour with an active commercial activity, a bishopric and then Mitropolis, and at that time only the Pacuiul lui Soare island had all this characteristics.
The hypothesis of the presence of a metropolis here is revealed by the rich archaeological discoveries from here.
I wrote this chapter about Pacuiul lui Soare in the memory of my grandmother Anica, which told me for the first time about this citadel.