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Sofia Coat of Arms


The coat of arms of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, serves as a symbol for the Capital Municipality as well. It was crafted in 1900 for the World Exhibition in Paris. The creation involved prominent figures: Ivan Mrkvichka, the director of the State Drawing School (presently the National Academy of Arts), Vaclav Dobruski, director of the National Museum (now known as the National Archaeological Museum), and Haralampi Tachev, who was then a student at the Drawing School. The selection of elements for the coat of arms was done by Mrkvichka and Dobruski, while Tachev was tasked with its artistic execution. In the years 1911 and 1928, Tachev incorporated additional elements, namely the motto and the laurel branches. During the Communist era, a red star was added to the coat of arms, which was subsequently removed in 1991.


The creation of Sofia’s coat of arms was prompted by the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, where participating countries were required to present their capitals’ coats of arms, to be displayed on the facade of the House of the Invalids. Haralampi Tachev noted that at the time, Sofia lacked its own coat of arms, as the Tarnovo Constitution only specified the state’s coat of arms and made no mention of city coats of arms. Despite differing opinions, the decision was made to create a coat of arms for the Bulgarian capital.

The Ministry of Trade and Agriculture, recognizing the necessity for a municipal emblem, sent a directive to the Sofia City Council on February 7, 1900, urging them to undertake the creation of a coat of arms. In response, the council appointed the mayor of Sofia, Hristo Popov, to represent the city in the Ministry’s commission preparing for the Bulgarian pavilion at the exhibition. Popov reached out to Ivan Mrkvichka and Vaclav Dobruski to assist in this endeavor.

The Sofia City Municipal Council approved Haralampi Tachev’s design for the coat of arms on March 17, 1900. Official recognition came with Decree No. 115 by Prince Ferdinand, promulgated in the State Gazette No. 91 on April 2, 1900. The decree articulated the necessity for the capital, Sofia, to possess a unique emblem (coat of arms) for use on the municipal seal, the city flag, and in other contexts where city coats of arms are traditionally displayed, underscoring the importance of a distinctive symbol for the capital.


The coat of arms of Sofia is marked by the presence of a fortress crown atop a shield, the crown’s teeth representing the mountains encircling the city. The shield itself is segmented into four quadrants. On the upper left quadrant, there’s an illustration of a female figure adorned with a masonry crown that features two toothed towers, signifying the city’s historical significance since ancient times. The upper right quadrant showcases the “Sveta Sophia” church, while the lower left quadrant portrays the Vitosha mountain, symbolizing the natural beauty and geographical significance of the region. In the lower right quadrant, a pavilion with a statue of Apollonus Medicus is depicted, embodying the healing mineral baths for which Sofia is renowned. At the center of the shield, the “Bulgarian Lion” is prominently displayed, serving as a symbolic bridge connecting the historical legacy of the old Bulgarian state with its contemporary identity.

The significance of the elements incorporated into Sofia’s coat of arms was meticulously documented in the Protocol accompanying the decision made by the Sofia Municipal Council to adopt the coat of arms. This document not only outlines the procedural steps that were followed to finalize the design of the coat of arms but also delves into the symbolism behind each element chosen for inclusion. This detailed record serves as an official testament to the thoughtful consideration and cultural reflection that informed the creation of Sofia’s emblem, ensuring that the city’s rich history, geographical significance, and cultural identity are aptly represented and preserved for future generations.

Haralambi Tachev, integral to the trio that curated the elements of Sofia’s coat of arms, provided insight into the historical and symbolic significance of its design. The design team drew inspiration from numismatic artifacts, incorporating imagery with deep historical roots and cultural significance:

Female Effigy from Antique Coin: The depiction of a woman, identified as Ulpia Serdica, features prominently in the upper left quadrant of the shield. This image, derived from an ancient coin from Serdika (the ancient name for Sofia), shows her with a masonry column on her head, flanked by two towers. This symbolizes the city’s historical significance and its enduring legacy from antiquity.

Pavilion and Apollo Medicus Statue: From another coin, the depiction of a pavilion with a conical roof, supported by six columns on a hexagonal base, was chosen. Within this structure stands the statue of Apollo Medicus, leaning on his caduceus. This represents the healing mineral waters that flow in and around Sofia, acknowledging the city’s long-standing association with health and wellness.

Silhouette of St. Sofia Church: The old church “St. Sofia,” viewed from east to west, was selected as the third motif. It stands as the city’s namesake and a centuries-old testament to Sofia’s rich historical tapestry. This symbol in the upper right quadrant speaks to the spiritual and architectural heritage of the city.

Vitosha Mountain: The silhouette of Vitosha Mountain, which has been associated with the city since ancient times, forms the fourth motif. Represented in the lower left quadrant, Vitosha is not only a natural landmark but also a picturesque backdrop that enhances the city’s beauty and offers recreational opportunities for its residents and visitors.

Lion Medallion: Lastly, the fifth motif, a round medallion featuring a lion with a full-face head in dark red enamel, found in Trapezitsa (Tarnovo), symbolizes strength and courage. This emblem, placed at the heart of the coat of arms, serves as a link to Bulgaria’s historical and cultural identity, embodying the spirit of the nation and its capital.

Through these carefully selected elements, Sofia’s coat of arms encapsulates the city’s ancient origins, its natural and architectural beauty, and its enduring symbols of cultural pride and resilience.

The emblem of Sofia is richly symbolic, incorporating elements that represent both the natural landscapes surrounding the city and its historical and cultural heritage. The design is anchored by a shield divided into four segments, crowned with a toothed fortress crown. This crown illustrates the natural beauty and significance of the mountains surrounding Sofia: “Stara Planina,” “Vitosha,” the foothills of “Rila,” and “Middle Forest,” each represented as part of the fortress-like crown.

In detail, the composition of the coat of arms is as follows:

Upper Left Quadrant: Here, set against a red background, is the effigy of a female head crowned with two toothed towers, symbolizing the ancient city of Serdica (modern-day Sofia) in white. This imagery draws from the city’s rich history, dating back to antiquity.

Lower Left Quadrant: Directly beneath the female effigy, Vitosha Mountain is portrayed in vibrant green, with the sky rendered in a silver hue, symbolizing the natural environment and the recreational and spiritual solace it offers to the city’s inhabitants and visitors.

Upper Right Quadrant: This section features the main facade of the old church of St. Sofia, painted in pink against a golden background. The church is not just a namesake but a testament to the city’s enduring spiritual and architectural heritage.

Lower Right Quadrant: In a blue backdrop, the figure of Apollonus Medicus symbolizes the Sofia Mineral Baths, depicted in gold. This figure represents the healing and therapeutic properties of the mineral waters that are a hallmark of the city.

Center Shield: At the heart of the shield, set in a smaller roundel with a red (blood paint) background, is a golden rampant lion, mirroring the Bulgarian national coat of arms. This lion stands as a unifying symbol, connecting Sofia’s identity to the broader national context and embodying strength, courage, and resilience.

Together, these elements weave a narrative that encapsulates Sofia’s geographical grandeur, its historical depth, and its cultural significance, portraying a city that is deeply connected to its past and its natural surroundings, yet vibrant and alive in the present.

Change of the Coat of Arms

In 1911, Haralambi Tachev enriched Sofia’s coat of arms with the addition of the motto “Grows, but does not age,” upon the suggestion of assistant mayor Radi V. Radev, who later became mayor. This motto, inscribed on a ribbon, is notably positioned on the crest and deliberately placed below the band of the coat of arms. Tachev highlighted that such mottoes are uncommon on city coats of arms, being more typical of state and family emblems.

Further embellishments were made in 1928 during the tenure of Mayor General Vladimir Vazov when Tachev introduced laurel branches to flank both sides of the shield, adding a symbol of honor and victory to the city’s emblem.

However, during the communist regime, on December 23, 1974, the coat of arms underwent significant changes, including the addition of a red five-pointed star at the center of the fortress crown. Additionally, the orthography was modified to align with the national front spelling reforms enacted in 1945. These alterations reflected the ideological shifts of the time.

These communist-era modifications were subsequently revoked on November 7, 1991, under the leadership of Mayor Alexander Yanchulev, as part of the broader move away from communist symbols and towards reinstating the city’s historical and cultural identity.

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