Basilica of St. Sofia


Basilica of St. Sofia in Sofia, which has been the symbol of the town for аges to such an extent that it has become its eponym (from Old Greek it means giving a name), certainly today it isnot the most impressive building in the Bulgarian capital. There is nothing strange in it: St. Sofiachurch in Constantinoplehas been the most spectacular Christian temple until the emergence of the Gothic cathedrals in the catholic world and even today it remains the most remarkable church, built by Orthodox Christians.However, this masterpiece of Ustinianus has been and more only the symbol of Constantinople/Istanbul for a long time but it also pales before the great silhouette of the Blue Mosque, which is not coincidentally situated opposite it. Similarly, St. Sofia seems simple and significantly lower (with 25 m) than the neighboring temple St. Alexander Nevsky. Nevertheless, for everyone who is excited by the cultural history of Christianity, St. Sofia is the greatest Istanbul sightseeing and it is also the most ancient and absolute proof of the Bulgarian spirit in the capital.

From an archaeological point of view the contemporary temple St. Sofia is the fourth ( or the sixth – according to prof. Stephan Bojadziev; the architect Vasil Kitov claims that they are five but prof. Bogdan Filov says they are four) church on that spot. Its development is connected with four building periods, which are called with the names of emperors and tsars: “The Constantine’s” – the first half of the 4th century; Valentovo – Teodosiev – the second half of the 4th century; Arakdiev – Markianov – the beginning and the third quarter of the 5th century; Ustiniane’s – the second quarter of the 6th century; and Boris – Petrov – 9th – 10th century.

From a functional point of view of the surroundings of the temple as a sacred place – a town of the dead (necropolis), its beginning coincides with the transformation with the old settlement Serdonopolis in the Roman town Ulpia Serdica in the beginning of the 2nd century. Considering the desire of the national poet Ivan Vazov to be buried near “St. Sofia”, these functions of the sacred hill are preserved till the 20th century.

From a legendary point of view, it has been built either from St. Elena, St. Constantine the Great’s mother, or from the mysterious princess Sofia – Constantine the Great’s daughter (and / or St. Elena’s), or from the mythical king Elina who lived during Jesus Christ’s time.

As far as the respect that inspired the look of the temple, it has not reduced since the turning of St. Sofia into Siaush pasha mosque at the end of the 16th century. According to the travelers from the 16, 17 and 18 century the dome of the church is seen from 20 Roman miles. It was so huge that “thousands of mosques couldn’t be compared with it” and the Turks were not able to ruin it despite their numerous attempts. It is likely that these attempts were stopped due to a rarely met phenomenon: a sacred body was immured–In the upper part of the temple and it emitted fragrance and it was respected both by the Bulgarian Christians and the Turkish Muslins. Were these the relics of Constantine’s mother – St. Elena? It is possible, especially if we pay attention to the fact that she was born in Serdica. This theory was so widespread at the end of the 17th century that it was mentioned by the Croatian poet and monk from the Franciskan order Andria Kachich Mioshich and the main cartographer of Venice Vinchenco Maria Koroneli.

In the course of time Liberated Bulgaria found the temple neglected and very old. However, its spirit was not affected. The inhabitants in Sofia from that time said that the ruins sheltered women who were healers and oracles, and when in 1914 the restoration began, it started with the adjustment of the south wing for a temple – the same one, which St. tsar Constantine erected as a Christian mausoleum – either for the local martyrs or for St. Elena – this and many other secrets are still kept by St. Sofia.