Rotunda Saint George
Rotunda Saint George is a rare monument of ancient architecture, located only 5 minutes walking from Central Hotel Sofia. It is assumed that the church was built in the 4th century. Located in the courtyard of the Presidency of the Republic of Bulgaria a few meters lower than today’s Sofia streets. It is considered one of the oldest preserved building in the city, built at the time when Emperor Constantine the Great repeatedly resided in Serdica, for which he has been attributed the phrase “Serdika – my Rome”.
In VI century during the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great Rotunda was converted into a church. Since then dates the first antique painting. From the same time suggesting that the church is named after St. George the Martyr.
With the Rotunda is connected one of the church councils held in Serdica (343), convened by the two co-managers of the Empire, the sons of the late Constantine the Great to overcome the church schism caused by the Arian heresy. In this council were involved 318 bishops of the Roman Empire. The council confirmed the Nicene Creed, the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity, acquitted St. Athanasius of Alexandria and deposed followers of the Arian heresy. One of the buildings that were in session and lived fathers of Serdica council is “civil” building next to the Rotunda Saint George. Serdica Council is one of seventeen canon creative councils of the Church. There are 11 cities where such councils were held. Ten of them for many centuries are not part of Christian countries anymore. And only one – Serdika, now Sofia – today is traditionally part of an Orthodox Christian country.
The Rotunda Saint George is known as a Christian church until the end of the sixteenth century, when Turks turned it into a mosque. In today’s state of the temple it is difficult to determine its original layout. Rotunda is covered by the cubic body, high in places up to 8 m. The late medieval scholar Vladislav the Grammarian mentioned Rotunda Saint George in 1497 in connection with the transfer of the relics of St. John of Rila from Veliko Tarnovo to the Rila Monastery in the summer of 1469 , he stated that during the stay of the procession in Sofia relics were temporarily housed in this temple, who was then chief metropolitan temple of the city. In the Rotunda Saint George relics of the saint were exposed to worship for six days. There is also the relics of St. King Stefan Milutin.
Extremely valuable remarkable murals in the Rotunda Saint George were discovered in the early twentieth century, after removing the lime plaster, which was covered on the walls during its transformation into a mosque. Slavonic inscriptions on them, connect them with the Second Bulgarian Empire. Biblical prophets have emphasized expressiveness in the expression of people in dynamic poses, creating unusually lively rhythm. After the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule the Rotunda Saint George was abandoned and neglected. After the death of Alexander Battenberg it was adapted for temporary mausoleum, which placed his remains until they are transported in a specially built mausoleum for him in 1898.
In 1915 the Rotunda Saint George was cleared of everything added to convert it into a mosque, minaret was knocked down, the interior plaster was cleaned and uncovered medieval painting consisting of three layers.
After the restoration of the temple was restored mundane worship and Rotunda Saint George is again performing its original functions.
Rotunda Saint George is included in the list of World Heritage by UNESCO.
Useful information for the temple:
The Rotunda Saint George is situated in the courtyard of the Government Office, just a couple of meters of the remains of the ancient fortress Serdika.
Address: 2 “Kniaz Dondukov” Blvd.
Visiting hours: 07: 30 am – 18 : 00 pm
We recommend You to visit Saint Sofia church – one of the oldest operating church in Europe.