Orhei Vechi archaeological complex

The Orhei Vechi (Old Orhei) archaeological complex is an open-air museum situated between the villages of Trebujeni and Butuceni, 60 km northeast of Chisinau.

This territory has been inhabited since early times. In this place many cities were built. The first city founded here was called Orhei. The name Orhei means “fortification”. Then at the beginning of the 14th century, the Golden Horde conquered this territory. The name of the archaeological reservation derives from the name of that medieval city, thus "Old Orhei".

The museum complex Old Orhei is a system of historical monuments and natural landscapes. It consists of a few promontories. The central promontory in Old Orhei is called Pestere. Its name derives from the many caves carved in it ('Pestere' is Romanian for 'caves'). The Butuceni headland is part of the Old Orhei as well. Together with the Pestere promontory it creates a complex harmony from every point of view. The Butuceni promontory is great from both the geological and esthetic points of view. It has many calcareous slates, spacious caves and small grottos. The wonderful view and ancient traces are impressive.

Old Orhei is famous for the cave monasteries located there. This zone was ideal for the primary monasticism of early Christian community. It was isolated from the outer world. At the time when Christians came here, there were been smaller and bigger caves in the calcareous rocks cut by pre-historic tribes living on this territory. At Old Orhei there are several monumental stone constructions which are of interest to both scientists and ordinary people. The oldest fortified construction at Old Orhei is the Gaetic fortress. It is located on the Butuceni promontory. The fortress is connected to the surrounding area by a narrow passage. In case of attack, it was easy to block access. The place was ideal for building a fortress.

Another construction of great interest is the Medieval Fortress. It was constructed when the Golden Horde conquered this territory. The city here became oriental and was named Shehr al-Cedid. The wooden fortress was destroyed. A new stone fortress was raised its place. It had two rooms and underground tomb. The building also had a patio. After the city was liberated from the occupation by Golden Horde, this building became the residence of the magistrate of Orhei district. After that time patios were often added to local Moldovan houses. The tomb was turned into cellar. Cellars also became a common feature of local houses. This building was destroyed, possibly in 1510 when Tatars torched the whole city.

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