Sofia, Bulgaria

The Russian Church, Sofia, Bulgaria

During the Ottoman period a mosque, the Saray Mosque, stood on this site. It was destroyed in 1882 after Bulgaria was liberated from the Empire and the land, a key central spot in the City, was given to the Russian Embassy. The Embassy Church was built next to the Embassy buildings and dedicated to St. Nicolai. Although the Embassy is now gone, the church remains and is generally referred to as the “Russian Church” for obvious reasons.

The church was designed by Russian architect Mikhail Preobrazhenski in the style of the Russian revivalist churches in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It has the onion-shaped cupolas so typical of Russian architecture, although all is done with a sense of restraint. The domes are coated with gold and sit atop copper spires which gives it a distinctive white, green, gold look.

It took until 1907 for work to begin and it was finished by 1914. After the Russian Revolution, this church became one of the pivotal places in which the Russian Orthodox Church survived the purges of the Communist period. Even during Bulgaria’s Communist regime the church remained open, although it was continuously under the watchful eye of the Bulgarian secret police.

Subsequent to the collapse of Communism across Europe the Russian Government paid for restoration of the church and today it stands as a gleaming marker on the main route from the Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral to the city centre of Sofia.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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