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Saint Sofia Church, Sofia

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History and teachings
The Saint Sofia Church is the oldest church in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, dating to the 4th century. In the predecessor building took place the Council of Serdica held most probably in 343 and attended by 316 bishops. In the 14th century, the church gave its name to the city, previously known as Sredets (Средец).Under the current Basilica of St. Sophia there are exhibited burial facilities from the eastern necropolis of the ancient town of Serdica and the remains of three earlier churches. The fourth church building was built at the end of the V century, the beginning of the VI century. The excavated graves and tombs are about 50 and are dated from III – V c. – stone sarcophagi, cemetery graves and masonry brick tombs – covered with flat-faced stone slabs and vaulted.

Rarely, some of the vaulted masonry tombs are mural-painted. Unlike the IV century, in the V century Christian symbols are mainly used. A typical example of this kind of decoration is the tomb of Honorius, discovered northwest of the St. Sophia Basilica and dating back to the V century. A red lettering is placed on the lid of the lunette, which reads: “Honorius, servant of God.”

Cross-cultural dimensions
The church was built on the site of several earlier churches from 4th c. and places of worship dating back to the days when it was the necropolis of the Roman town of Serdica. In the 2nd century, it was the location of a Roman theatre. Over the next few centuries, several other churches were constructed, only to be destroyed by invading forces such as the Goths and the Huns. The basic cross design of the present basilica, with its two east towers and one tower-cupola, is believed to be the fifth structure to be constructed on the site and was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the middle of the 6th century (527-565). It is thus a contemporary of the better-known Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople.[1]

During the Second Bulgarian Empire (spanning the 12th to 14th centuries), the structure acquired the status of a metropolitan church. In the 14th century, the church gave its name to the city. In the 16th century, during Ottoman rule, the church was converted into a mosque: the original 12th-century frescoes were destroyed and minarets were added. In the 19th century, two earthquakes destroyed one of the minarets and the mosque was abandoned. Restoration work was begun after 1900.

The Saint Sofia Church is now one of the most valuable pieces of Early Christian architecture in Southeastern Europe.

Useful information:
recommended for all; unique; does not require prior knowledge; accessible;

Location, public transportationcentral, public transportation available

Human resources, assistancelimited

Accessibility (for disabled) , preparedness of the stafffirst floor is accessble. The Necropolis museum, part of the churchnot accessible for wheelchairs

Infrastructure, staff, safety measures, languages Bulgarian and English

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What Will You Learn?

  • historical and religion knowledge, the importance of the religion in the community; architectural signature; understanding of the effects of different leadership and country's influence, as well as Roman and Ottoman influence and requirements.

Course Content

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