Characteristics of the historic urban landscape

The pointed out evolution of the ideas of urban cultural heritage, as well as the Recommendation of UNESCO, give grounds the site to be regarded not only as an environment with exceptional single heritage sites but also as an integral historic urban landscape – result of a historic layering of values and qualities – cultural and natural, tangible and intangible, which determine the urban identity and diversity.

Undoubtedly, the evaluation of the outstanding universal value of the property in 1983 did not ignore these values, as far as “The Ancient City of Nessebar” was not inscribed as a system of single ‘serial properties’ (according to §137-139 of the Guidelines) but as a whole historic town, having integral cultural values. But the level of knowledge of the historic town values 30 years ago did not allow a clearer definition of the values of “The Ancient City of Nessebar” as a historic urban landscape. For the needs of the MP, though, it is absolutely necessary. If, on one hand, the integral values of the property are not clearly identified, there is a real danger some of them to be ignored and eventually – irreversibly lost. On the other hand, the pointed out evolution and the Recommendation of UNESCO show that if the urban cultural heritage is not considered in its integrity and in a broader context, it could hardly be conserved, sustainably used and managed – especially if it is a living and dynamic historic town like “The Ancient City of Nessebar”. That is why the MP proposes the following identification and classification of the values of the property, which define it as a historic urban landscape and which represent the main structural and valuable features of this landscape:

  • Overall configuration of the landscape: “outstanding natural configuration” (the World Heritage Committee), a result of the harmonious synthesis between architecture and nature (rocks, natural vegetation and sea) – rocky peninsula with horizontally built platform and high cliffs with vegetation, connected to the main land through a long narrow isthmus and being “unique site along the whole European coastline” (Nomination).

  • Historical stratification of “multilayered cultural and historical heritage” (the World Heritage Committee), pointed out in the Recommendations of UNESCO as one of the most important features of the historic urban landscape. This characteristic is of greatest significance in the above pointed nine historical areas (see ІІ item 2).

  • Urban fabric, possessing “cohesion of… high quality” (the World Heritage Committee) and has leading contribution to the outstanding universal value; by the inscription is pointed that the ensembles with vernacular architecture, among which the churches stand out as notional and composition urban accents, play important role for “harmonious homogenous entity” of the property.

  • Traditional public directions and spaces, evidences of remarkable continuity throughout the ages: main urban axes (east-west along Mitropolitska Street and Messembria Street; north-south – along Ribarska Street) and public space (Acropolis/monastery complex – Agora/metropolitan complex – public squares with public buildings around them).

  • Relation between the town and the natural environment and especially with the sea: harmony between architecture and the ‘unique coastal relief’, the visual links with the sea from the inside of the town, the mosaics of the yards with vegetation, etc.

  • Urban silhouettes, each one of them possessing its personal individuality: the emblematic west silhouette; the north silhouette with the garland of buildings on the high cliff; the peaceful and calm south silhouette with the monumental presence of the church of St. John Aleitourgitos.

  • Traditional functions, inherited from the millennial development of the town (religious, residential, harbour, trade, related to local crafts, etc.) or acquired in modern times (museum, tourist, service, etc.).

From today’s point of view, regarding the property as an integral historic urban landscape requires attention to be necessarily paid to ‘the broader urban context and its geographical setting’ (Recommendation of UNESCO) – ignored by the inscription of the property in 1983. The surrounding territories are a historical and cultural area of the property and to a certain degree contribute to the enhancement and the protection of its outstanding universal value. That is why the MP draws the attention also towards: the coastal areas of the peninsula, the isthmus, the adjacent territories on the mainland to the west, and the aquatory. It is emphasised that these territories have their own cultural value (e.g. the Necropolis of Messambria-Messemvria-Nessebar on the mainland, the underwater archaeology in the aquatory, etc.), which enhance the outstanding universal value of the property.