Marina Cherkva ( Cherkva means Church in bulgarian) is a megalithic Thracian sanctuary located in the area of Mandilovi Nivi, under Mount Arapchal.
The rock on which the sanctuary is located is 15-20 meters high. Its top has a very large view to the south and to the north. On the highest point of the rock massif, there is a rock-cut altar with an oval shape and a chute.. The diameter is about 50-60 cm and the depth 30 cm.
During archaeological research in 2009, ceramic fragments were found in a high concentration in the area around the rock massif. Here are excerpts from Dimitar Bajryakov’s report: “The pottery is hand worked, brown, gray and black in colour. Incised decoration is missing. One characteristic brown engobe fragment decorated with shallow vertical grooves. Some of the fragments have a smoothed and brown engobe coated outer surface. Plastic decoration occurs band of pinches. One fragment has a smooth black surface. Several cup fragments have a tumbled body and a straight rim. One small boucle of a brown-colored vessel. One cylindrical tongue handle with a black surface. The approximate date of the object is Late Bronze Age and I thousand BC, possibly including the Early Iron Age (?).” .
Origin of the name Marina cherkva
The name Marina draws from the St. Marina. According to Hristo Maslarov, who was the first curator of the archaeological collection in the village of Kamenitsa in 1909, the origin of the name of the Marina church area comes from the ruins of an ancient church located there. Most likely, it was destroyed when the Ottomans came to the Rhodopes.
And indeed, traces of stone buildings can be seen on the terrain, which may be related to it. From the Eastern Rhodopes and Strandzha, the cult of Saint Marina is known, which comes from much earlier historical times, even before the adoption of Christianity. Such an analogy in the Western Rhodopes sounds quite appropriate and gives meaning and significance to the cult practices carried out by the local population in the first millennium BC.
Here is the location. Enjoy your hike!