The Madara Rider, representing the figure of a knight triumphing over a lion, is carved into a 100-m-high cliff near the village of Madara in north-east Bulgaria. Madara was the principal sacred place of the First Bulgarian Empire before Bulgaria’s conversion to Christianity in the 9th century. The inscriptions beside the sculpture tell of the events that occurred between AD 705 and 801.
The Madara Rider is a unique relief, an exceptional work of art, created during the first years of the formation of the Bulgarian State, at the beginning of the 8th century. It is the only relief of its kind, having no parallel in Europe. It has survived in its authentic state, with no alternation in the past or the present.
It is outstanding not only as a work of Bulgarian sculpture, with its characteristically realist tendencies, but also as a piece of historical source material dating from the earliest years of the establishment of the Bulgarian state. The inscriptions around the relief are, in fact, a chronicle of important events concerning the reigns of very famous Khans: Tervel, Kormisos and Omurtag.
The rock relief of the Madara Horseman encompasses within its boundaries sufficient elements for its presentation. It lies within an archaeological reserve that includes other archaeological monuments, up to 2000 years old. The defined boundaries, and the protection zone, ensure the conservation of the property's surrounding.
Due to the uncertain stability of the supporting rock, the relief has a serious and enduring conservation problem, although changes in the integrity of the property are not significant. A combination of wind erosion, and surface water run-off from heavy rain and melting snow, together with biological coatings, is causing the rock to erode. The property has been subject to numerous archaeological, geodesic, geological, hydrological, static, seismograph, physical chemistry and, lately, microbiological research investigations. These exceptional research efforts have been incorporated into a database, the results of which have defined the parameters for immediate conservation interventions. In 2007 an international project, seeking solutions for the conservation of the relief, was concluded and an evaluation of proposed interventions is pending.