The capital of Bulgaria is home to one of the most magnificent temples of the Eastern Orthodox world. The St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia is the city’s most famous tourist site with its golden domes and Neo-Byzantine architecture.
It took 30 years for the temple to be built – between 1882 and 1912. Its purpose is to honor the Russian soldiers who lost their lives in the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1877 – 1878. This war won Bulgaria’s independence from the Turks and is referred to as the War of Liberation.
The plans for the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia were changed few times by different Russian architects and the temple was built as a cross-domed basilica. The central dome is 45 meters high and the highest point of the bell tower is 57 meters. The tower contains the heaviest bell in and Eastern Orthodox temple – 12 tons. The other 11 bells in the tower have a total weight of 11 tons.
The exterior is dominated by the golden domes which glitter in the sun and can be seen from far away. The overall area covered by the precious metal is 700 square meters. Small and very delicate square pieces of golden film are applied with great skill. Only the dome of the bell tower contains 25 000 such pieces. The gold amounts to more than eight kilograms and the cover is so delicate that it needs to be checked and restored on regular basis.
The lavish interior murals took a total of 49 painters to complete – 32 Russians, 16 Bulgarians and 1 Czech. The materials used for decoration were brought from all over the world including marble from Italy, Brazilian onyx and Indian alabaster. The metal gates were made in Munich and the mosaics came from Venice. The main iconostasis is 6 meters high, contains 19 icons and is made of marble – white, yellow, green and red.
The temple contains relics of its patron saint – Alexander Nevski. He was a Russian prince who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church for his military achievements. St. Alexander Nevski Was the patron saint of the Russian Emperor Alexander II, who won the war against the Ottoman Empire.
The St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia is one of Bulgaria’s most famous tourist sites visited by many people every day. It has no entrance fee. The temple is always open for visitors and is a fully functioning Eastern Orthodox Church. For everyone interested in religious art there is a museum in the crypt which contains more than 300 items, mostly icons from IX to XIX century.
A visit to St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral is part of our Sofia in a Day Tour.