Five Churches in Sofia, Bulgaria
1. Sveti (St.) Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky is one of the symbols of Sofia and in our opinion one of the most beautiful sites in the capital of Bulgaria. It is the second biggest orthodox cathedral on the Balkans after Saint Sava in Belgrade. We, being patriots and all that, think they cheated a bit, because the Serbian cathedral is not actually finished on the inside and ours is as spectacular on the inside as well it is on the outside. Joke aside, if you visit them both you will notice that architecturally speaking they are very similar. Alexander Nevsky cathedral was named after a Russian saint and was dedicated to Tsar Alexander II (Liberator) and all the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish wars and who helped in the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule. It is built between 1904-1912. The beautiful golden domes that can be seen from far away are actually a gift from Russia in 1960.
2. Sveta (St.) Nedelya
Sveta Nedelya is a church with a very dark and bloody past. Here’s a short story of conspiracy and assassination. One of the political parties planned to kill Tsar Boris III. A well-known general was killed and his funeral was intended to be a bait for the actual assault, because it was supposed to bring many political figures and the Tsar himself. Bombs were planted on the roof of the church and more than 150 people were killed as well as 500 more injured. Boris III, the intended victim, didn’t arrive on time for the funeral and therefore his life was saved.
3. Sveta (St.) Sofia
Saint Sofia Church is the second oldest orthodox church in Sofia and is built in the 6th century. The city of Sofia takes its name after the church. During the Ottoman rule, just like many other churches, Saint Sofia was turned into a mosque, but later it was abandoned and after the Liberation, it was restored. The church does not have a bell tower and the bell is placed on a tree in front of the building. What we love about it is that today apart from the regular visit you can dive into a few levels of catacombs…oops we’ve meant history. There is a working Necropolis museum underneath it with tombs and ruins from the previous churches that date back to the 1st and 2nd century. It gives you an interesting insight on the changes that the church went through as well as a lot of history on the city.
Another church, turned into mosque for about 3 centuries, is also the oldest building in Sofia and has a huge cultural and religious impact. Similar to the rotunda St. George in Thessaloniki , the smaller Church of St. George has beautifully painted murals. Тhe most famous one is the soulful face of an angel under the dome. The holy relics of St. Ivan Rilski (the first Bulgarian hermit) were kept there, then stolen from the Hungarians, returned in Tarnovo and transfered in the Rila Monastery. In rare cases the church is also used as a setting for Orthodox or classical music concerts and solemn military ceremonies.
5. Russian Church Sveti Nikolay ‘Chudotvorets’ (Saint Nicholas ‘The Miracle Maker’)
Because of its typical Moscow architecture, beautiful white and green facade, golden domes and perfect location one of our favourite buildings in Sofia is the Russian Church St. Nicholas. The beautiful wall-paintings inside of it were drawn by Russian artists.
It’s remarkable how quiet and peaceful you feel just being in it contrasting to the hectic life outside. The most interesting thing about this church is actually the crypt located downstairs (entry on the left side) where is located the grave of the Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev. After praying on his grave there were hundreds of people who said they’ve found peace and healing and that’s why he is now called The Miracle Maker. Nowadays, many people leave their wishes in the crypt hoping the Archbishop will help and heal them.
Sveti (St.) Sedmochislenitsi
The Church St. Sedmochislenitsi is located in a small but beautiful park where you can hang out relaxing on the benches and contemplate the temple.
Before the 20th century it was a mosque formerly known as the Black mosque because of its dark granite minaret which was destroyed when the reconstruction of the temple started. The church is named and dedicated to Saint Cyril and Methodius (invented the Cyrillic alphabet) and their five followers, called collectively as ‘the Sedmochislenitsi’ by the Orthodox Church.
Sveta (St.) Paraskeva
Saint Paraskeva church is a bit off the beaten path when it comes to tourist attractions and even though it is the third biggest church in the city, you probably won’t find it in the travel guides. We’ve always admired its architecture and thought of it as a hidden gem. A very curious fact is that now there is an indoor flee market at its basement. The space is litterally filled up with all types of antique items – from old records and musical instruments to medicine bottles, bags, mirrors and chairs. Pretty much everything you can imagine!
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