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Saint Alexander Nevsky Temple-Monument

Religious

The Cathedral “St. Alexander Nevsky” stands as an iconic symbol of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, with its gleaming golden domes visible from kilometers away. Located in the heart of the city on the square bearing the same name, the cathedral holds historical and cultural significance.

Constructed in honor of the Russian Emperor Alexander II, known as “Tsar Osvoboditel” or the “Liberator Tsar,” the cathedral commemorates the Russian army’s role in liberating Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878. Named after St. Alexander Nevsky, a revered Russian prince from the 13th century, the cathedral pays tribute to both the Russian emperor and the patron saint, symbolizing Russian martial glory.

The initiative to build the cathedral came from Bulgarian politician and public figure Petko Karavelov. Although initially intended for Tarnovo, Prince Battenberg insisted on its construction in Sofia. Funding came from the state budget and donations from prominent citizens, including Prince Battenberg.

The foundation stone was laid on February 19, 1882, but actual construction commenced in 1904. The cathedral was completed in 1912 and consecrated in 1924. The project involved Russian collaboration, with designs sent from St. Petersburg. Architect Alexander Pomerantsev took charge after the rejection of the initial plan.

Covering an area of 3,170 square meters and accommodating 5,000 people, the cathedral features white Vratsa stone and Slavonian oak entrance doors. The gilded domes and a 53-meter bell tower with 12 bells, including a 12-ton bell, add to its grandeur.

The interior showcases magnificent marble decoration, frescoes, and 82 icons by Bulgarian, Russian, and Czech artists. Notable elements include the marble iconostasis, royal and patriarchal thrones, and a mosaic panel featuring King Ferdinand and Queen Eleonora. The crypt, located in the basement, houses a collection of icons, showcasing masterpieces of icon painting.

Designated as a monument, the cathedral doesn’t serve as a parish. While public services are held regularly, baptisms, weddings, and funerals are exceptions. Notable exceptions include the wedding of Tsar Boris III in 1930, his funeral in 1943, and the funerals of Patriarch Kiril in 1971 and opera singer Boris Hristov in 1993.

Today, “St. Alexander Nevsky” stands as the second-largest Orthodox cathedral in the Balkans, embodying a rich blend of historical, cultural, and religious significance.

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