Church of Sveta Sofia, Sofia
Saint Sofia Church (or „Sveta Sofia“) is the second oldest church in the city, as well as the one which gave the city its name it is located in a reddish building slightly hidden behind some trees and branched.
Its history is a troubled one. The first building dates back to the 6th century and was a roman place of worship first and a theater later; it became a church only in the 12th century and stayed like this until the 16th century, when it was turned into a mosque: the old Christian frescoes were destroyed and minarets were added. In the 19th century earthquakes hit the city and one of the minarets crumbled down. The mosque was abandoned and restoration work began.
Work time (daily):
07:00 - 18:00 (winter)
07:00 - 19:00 (summer)
Church of Sveta Sofia is the oldest eastern orthodox church in Sofia with a long and rich history. It was built in 6th century (probably during the reign of the byzantine emperor Justinian) on the site of earlier churches (from 4th century, remains of that mosaic can still be seen in the floor). It’s a typical byzantine basilica with red bricks. St Sofia gave the name to the city of Sofia (much later of course, in 14th century although Sredets was used also until 18th century).
The church was turned into a mosque during the ottoman empire and unfortunately the old frescoes were covered by plaster. Several damaged came with the earthquakes of 1818 and 1858 but after the liberation in 1878 an extensive restoration brought the church back and it is now used again by locals that used it for ceremonies (weddings, baptisms etc) although it’s very simple inside with only a few icons here and there.
Outside the main gate we noticed some old photos of the church (pic 3). There is a small store with icons, magnets and a book about the church.
The church is open daily 9.00-18.00
Right outside the church is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (pic 5) that was erected for the Bulgarian soldiers that died during WWI similar to those all over Europe. The difference here is the huge bronze lion that protects the tomb (pic 4)
Sofia's oldest surviving Christian church dates back to the 6th century. It was built on the site of two 4th century churches. During Ottoman rule the church became a mosque. It was abandoned in 1858 when an earthquake struck. It's built in the style of a Byzantine basilica. Inside remains of a mosaic from one of the 4th century churches can be seen in the floor. Outside the church is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, this commemorates Bulgarian soldiers killed in World War I. Next to this is a bronze lion.
Sophia means wisdom and this church give also the name of the city.Sofia is the oldest eastern orthodox in sofia.It was build during the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the years of 527-565.During the turkish rule the chýrch was converted to mosque which after an earthquake the minarets was demolished.
Built in the end of the 5th century - beginning of the 6th century AD over the remains of two older churches - the first dated to 361-363AD, the second - to the beginning of the 5th century. The church's name means God's Great Wisdom. The church was so famous in the 14th century so that the mediaeval town of Serdika was renamed to Sofia. So, the today's capital of Bulgaria owns its name to this church.
At the time of the Ottoman rule the church was turned into a mosque. It was partially destroyed because of two earthquakes - the one in 1818 and another one in 1858. At the time of the second earthquake there were the two sons of the hodja and they were killed. As a result St. Sofia was abondoned.
After Bulgaria became independant again the church was used as an oil reservoir. In 1892-1898 a fire-watch was build on the church's dome.
In 1910-1914 the archeologists became interested in the church. The church was renovated in 1924-1930.
St. Sofia was opened for service and visitors in 1998. You may get married there :-)
Inside you may see a stone plate that was closing the entrance of a brick tomb dated to the first quarter of the 5th century.
The Sv. Sofia church is certainly not spectacular to look at, but it has a very interesting history. Built in the 6th century it is the second oldest church in Sofia. During the Ottoman occupation it served as a mosque. During that time it was repeatedly damaged by earthquakes, the Turks interpreted that as a bad sign and abandonned it as house of prayer.
Saint Sofia Church gave her name to the whole town. She is located on the left side of Alexander Nevski cathedral , and is the oldest Eastern Orthodox church in Sofia >> See Hekate's tip about extended info on this church.
To be continued
This city name "Sofia" comes from the name of this church. "Sofia" is from Greek word, "Sophia" meaning "Wisdom".
This church was constructed in 6th. century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, but the original one had already been there from 4th. century. Below the floor there are ruins of former church, and we can see some Christian mosaics.
This church has a typical style of Basilica, so we can feel the air of early church style.
Standing next to Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, and looking much more modest, is the red brick Church of St. Sofia, a church that gave its name to the city in the late 14th century.
Today, it is the oldest Eastern Orthodox church in Sofia, with a long and fascinating history.
It was built on the site of several earlier churches and places of worship dating back to the days when it was the necropolis of the Roman town Serdica.
In the 2nd century CE, it was, ironically enough, the location of a theatre used by the Romans for bloody public spectacles, such as the sacrifice of Christians in battles against gladiators and various wild beasts.
Over the next few centuries, several other churches were erected, only to be destroyed by invading forces such as the Goths and the Huns.
The basic cross design of the present basilica, with its two east towers and one tower-cupola, is probably built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian between 527-565.
St Sofia Church was tuned into a mosque under Ottoman rule, when the original 12th-century frescoes were destroyed and minarets added. Earthquakes in 1818 and 1858 destroyed the minaret and the mosque was more or less abandoned.
After the liberation in 1878, it was restored as a church and now is a popular spot for weddings, funerals and baptisms.
So, that is the history of the place. Here are some practical info:
You can take pictures but it is good first to ask for permision. At least this is what I did and you can see the result :).
If you are truly interested of the church, you can puchase a book about it. The book is belingual, Bulgarian and English and the price is 10 leva (EUR 5).
Mind that there are not much frescoes inside just a couple of icons. The church is much smaller and by far not as impessive as Aleksander Nevski Cathedral but it is still worth visiting.
Daily 09.00 – 18.00 h.
Free of charge (a good idea is to drop some money in the charity box).
About 15 minutes.
This is an early Byzantine church and is found several blocks behind the old party building. As visitors to my pages will see I seem to visit many churches ... but in the height of summer they can often be some of the coolest places.
The 'St Sofia church'. Behind it you can see the cathedral again :)