Saint Sofia Church – the oldest operating church in Europe

Saint Sofia church

Saint Sofia church – the church of Wisdom

Saint Sofia church / or the ancient basilica Saint Sofia/ is the oldest operating church in Europe. For the capital city this temple is more than a landmark. It is a symbol of the state and its main city. On the south facade of the church was built the main official memorial of the republic – the Monument of the Unknown Soldier with eternal flame. From the east side is the grave of of the Bulgarian national writer Ivan Vazov.

From “Sophia” /or “Sofia”/ in Medieval comes the modern name of the Bulgarian capital. But everything starts much far back in time. The legend tells that a princess named Sofia arrived to the city. She was sick but eventually healed, recovered and then was built the church as a sign of gratitude and praise to God. When she died she was buried in it.

The basilica Saint Sofia church was built in the VI-th century, but rests on the foundations of another church of the IV-th century, which was the first major Christian church in ancient Serdica. Part of the floor in Roman mosaics of that time has been preserved until today. In 343 AD is held here Serdica council. Then in this place is established the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Over the next 200 years the church was changed and rebuilt, then destroyed by the Huns and Goths invasion raids. After this period, Emperor Justinian the Great ordered to be raised again as large basilica in praise of Sofia – the wisdom of God. The temple was built on the highest hill in the city at the time. It was used as a common burial place. At the beginning of the first Christian graves were away from the city walls, and consequently each has sought to obtain a burial site near the cemetery church.

Medieval period of Saint Sofia church

Between XII and XIV century during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom Saint Sofia church acquired the status of bishop’s cathedral church. After the Ottoman invasion was turned into a mosque. For this purpose has been converted only porch. Billy and finish construction of minarets. As a result of two earthquakes in the XV and XIX century they are destroyed. Turks decided that this is a bad sign and abandoned temple.

After the liberation of Bulgaria, on January 4 1878 in front of  the “Sophia” with thanksgiving ceremoniously was welcomed General Gurko and his soldiers. Bell then hung on a tall tree in front of the temple. This practice has been preserved until today because the Basilica has no steeple.

The underground museum of the temple and the ancient necropolis of Serdica

In the underground museum of the temple lies a true cultural and historical wealth of the capital – ancient necropolis of Serdica, where for more than two centuries (from the third quarter of II, until the third quarter of the IV century were buried the inhabitants of Konstantinov city. Stone sarcophagi different in shape and size depending likely on the public status of the deceased, are placed at different levels in a labyrinth of stairs, corridors and low sheep galleries dug by hand by archaeologists.

Excavated tombs are dozens and each is different in shape – hemispherical, cylindrical, solid and heavy rectangular sarcophagi; masonry tombs. The entire museum under Saint Sofia church is organized in the form of a walk up and down along the tombs by glazed walkways and steps, with artistic lighting and numerous information boards.

Enjoy this ancient walk.

Saint Sofia church awaits you!

Find more at official site of Bulgaria travel here.

Useful information:

Address: Street ” Paris ” 2, Sofia

Visiting hours: 07: 00 am – 18 : 00 pm