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Architecture of Bulgaria. Must see and must visit landmarks

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a cathedral dedicated to Russian soldiers who freed Bulgaria of the Turkish yoke. The cathedral was built by patriots of Bessarabia, Dobrudzha, Austria, and Russia.
»  In 1882, the first stone was laid. The construction lasted from 1904 to 1912. It had been named after Saint Cyrill and Methodius until 1920. The cathedral was declared a cultural monument only in 1924.
»  The building was designed by Russian architects I. Bogomolov and A. Pomerantsev. The cathedral was built and decorated with Russian and Bulgarian architects and artists. The iconostasis of the cathedral is decorated with two icons painted by V. M. Vasnetsov.
»  The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in the pearl frame was donated to the cathedral by Aleksey I, a Russian patriarch.
»  The total area of the building is 2 600 m2, so it can accommodate about 5 000 people at the same time. The bell tower has 12 bells made in Moscow. The biggest bell weighs 12 tons. The sound of bells is heard even beyond the city.
»  Nowadays, the cathedral is the residence of Bulgarian patriarchs. It also appeared in two films: “Hitman” and “Ninja”.

Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» Banya Bashi Mosque is a medieval mosque that was supposedly built in 1567. It is also known as Molla Efendi and Kada Seyfullah because the mosque was built on the donations of Molla Efendi Kada Seyfullah.
»  At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was restored on the donations of the Turkish ambassador Fethi Bey. Now, it is the only functioning mosque in Sofia.
»  The mosque was built on a natural thermal spring. You can see steam rising from vent holes. Even the fountain near it works on hot mineral water.
»  On great Muslim holidays, the mosque accommodates up to 1 200 people. Although the mosque is an active temple, non-Muslims can enter the building because it is an architectural monument.

Boyana Church, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Boyana Church is located not far from the capital. It is an old construction that consists of three sectors built at different times.
»  The oldest part is a small church built in the 10th century. In the 13th century, the Bulgarian noble Kaloyan built a two-level church and shrine at his expense. The new church was built in 1882.
»  In 1259, medieval artists Basil and Dimitri covered the walls of the church with a new painted layer. The names of artists were known when the church was being restored.
»  The main value of the church is authentic wall painting. It was done in accordance with the unique technique of portrait paintings that have found nowhere else in the world. Every portrait has individuality and expresses emotions. Faces on the portraits are not repeated.
»  On the walls of the temple, scenes from the Holy Scripture are depicted. You can also see pictures of Jesus Christ at different points of his life and at different ages.
»  In 1979, the Boyana Church became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. In honor of the 1300th anniversary of Bulgaria, jubilee coins were issued. The Boyana Church was stamped on the 2 leva coin.

Central Mineral Baths, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Central Mineral Baths were built in Sofia in 1913. They were built on a thermal spring and served as a spa center.
»  The money for the construction was allocated by several European banks. The building was quite impressive and attractive.
»  In 1980, the Mineral Baths were closed by the city authorities. For many years, it was unclaimed and served only as an interesting architectural monument that catches the eye.
»  In 2015, the authorities opened the National History Museum in the building. There is a room where ancient exhibits are kept. Here, you can see the Louis XVI Carriage that belonged to Prince Ferdinand I. In it, the prince and his wife had a wedding ceremony in 1893. There is also a desk presented to Ferdinand by Chancellor Bismarck. It is covered with 24-carat gold.
»  In the room where personal belongings of citizens of the late 19th century, you can see clothes, shoes, pieces of furniture, and other exhibits.

Central Sofia Synagogue, Sofia

Location on the map:   Interesting facts: » The Sofia Synagogue was built in the district of the Jewish community. It was opened in September 1909. The opening ceremony was visited by Tsar Ferdinand I and his wife.
»  The Sofia Synagogue is the biggest in Bulgaria. Its octagonal hall can accommodate up to 1 300 believers. One of the interesting things here is a chandelier that weighs 2 tons.
»  When Jews were deported from the city during the Second World War, the synagogue was closed. Nowadays, no more than a hundred believers attend services in the synagogue because most of the Jews moved to Israel and America.
»  The synagogue serves as the residence of rabbis of Sofia and Bulgaria.
»  In 1992, the European History Museum was opened. Here, you can visit two exhibitions. One of them is dedicated to the development of the Jewish community, its life and culture. The other one is dedicated to the Holocaust during the Second World War.

Central market, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Central Market was built in Sofia in 1911. The author of the project was architect Leon Bourgeois. When the market was being constructed, local architects made changes in the project.
»  The facade of the building is decorated with the bas-relief emblem of Sofia. Above the central arch, there is a small clock tower.
»  Agricultural products were sold in the market. In the basement, there were ice makers that could be used by consumers. Nowadays, there are shops and cafes on the ground floor.
»  In 2000, the market was renovated and updated. On the ground floor, fragments of the Roman Fortress of Ulpia Serdica were found.
»  The building of the Central Market is the architectural monument of Sofia.

Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Ivan Vazov National Theatre was built by Austrian architects Helmer and Fellner. They constructed the world-famous Vienna State Opera.
»  The theatre was opened in January 1907. It was named after the Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov.
»  The theatre was burned many times during the Second World War. It was last restored in 2007.
»  The theatre consists of three halls for 750, 120, and 70 seats. Here, not only plays of Bulgarian dramatists, but also famous classical works of prominent authors are staged.
»  The repertoire also includes performances based on Chekhov's play "The Cherry Orchards” and Dostoevsky’s «The Brothers Karamazov"
»  The National Theatre is depicted on the Bulgarian 50-lev banknote.

Monument to the Tsar Liberator, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Monument to the Tsar Liberator is located in the main city square. It is dedicated to Russian Tsar Alexander II and soldiers participating in the Russian-Turkish Liberation War in 1878.
»  On the initiative of the Militia Committee, donations were collected for the construction of the monument. The People’s Assembly announced a competition for the best project of the monument. Projects of architects from 12 countries were considered.
»  The international jury that consisted of specialists from the Roman, Paris, and Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts awarded the first prize to the Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi. The monument was finished in 1901-1903.
»  It was blessed in 1907. The festive ceremony was visited by the son of Alexander II Vladimir and his wife, their son Andrey, the regimental commander Stoletov, Bulgarian Generals Kaulbars and Parensov.
»  For over a century, the monument had required to be restored. It was renovated by the Generation Fund in 2013 under the guidance of Andrey Skoch, a Russian businessman.

National Art Gallery, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The National Art Gallery is located in the former residence of Prince Alexander of Battenberg. It was built in 1873. Pieces of art started to be collected in 1892. The sector in the Archeology Museum was allocated for them.
»  When the collection was big enough, an art gallery was opened. In 1952, the gallery occupied some rooms in the palace.
»  The collection includes paintings and sculptures of Bulgarian National Revival artists (1878).
»  Medieval icons that are real treasures of the gallery are kept and displayed at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
»  The gallery houses 50 000 works made by 3 000 Bulgarian masters.
»  The National Gallery also includes home-museums of artists Vera Nedkova and Nikola Tanev and sculptor Ivan Lazarov.

National Gallery for Foreign Art, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The National Gallery for Foreign Art houses the collection received from the National Art Gallery in 1985. The gallery was founded by the Fund of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov. Many exhibits were donated from private collections.
»  The gallery occupies four floors of an old mansion. The collection of foreign art includes 10 000 exhibits.
»  In the halls, you can see paintings and sculptures of Western European masters: Rembrandt, M. Chagall, F. Giya, S. Dali, P. Picasso, and Roden.
»  The gallery houses over 200 works of Nikolai Roerich and his son Svetoslav.
»  Here, you can also see the big and interesting collection of different decorative items from Africa, Japan, India, and Asia.

Russian Church, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Russian Church in Sofia is also known as the Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker. It was decided to build to church after the Russian-Turkish War. The plot of land near the Russian embassy was allocated for it.
»  The construction began only in 1907 because fundraising had gone on for too long. The church was consecrated in 1914. The festive ceremony was visited by Prince Vladimir, the son of Alexander II.
»  The First World War, during which Bulgaria opposed Russia, forced the church to cease its activity. Only after the Second World War, the Russian Orthodox Church was re-opened.
»  In its chapel, Archbishop Seraphim who had worked here since 1921 until his death in 1950 was buried. He was canonized for performing miracles and helping believers.
»  Russian Emperor Nicholas II donated bells for the bell tower to the Russian Church.

Saint Sofia Church, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Saint Sofia Church or the Basilica of Saint Sofia is the oldest church that has survived to this day. The first churches were built here already in the 3rd century. They were destroyed during barbarians’ raids. In 537, the Saint Sofia Church was reconstructed on the initiative of Emperor Justinian I.
»  In the late 16th century, during the Ottoman invasion, Turks turned the Orthodox Church into a mosque, built a minaret, and got rid of paintings. In 1858, the minaret was destroyed by an earthquake, so Turks rebuilt it into a warehouse.
»  The church was repeatedly restored in the 20th century and finally gained its original appearance. In 1998, the basilica was opened for parishioners.
»  During archaeological excavations, catacombs with graves were found under the building. You can also see the fragment of the painting of the first church.
»  In 1955, the Saint Sofia Church was declared a cultural monument.

Sofia University, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» Sofia University was founded in 1888. Its first rector was young scientist Aleksandar Balan (1859-1959) who had been working at the university until his death.
»  In 1924, the Georgiev brothers donated money to build a new university.
»  The building project was presented by the French architect Breancon. The Bulgarian architect Yordan Milanov arrogated to himself the right to this project. As a result, Breancon received large payoffs.
»  The new university was opened in 1934. It was named after St. Kliment Ohridski, one of the seven students of St. Cyrill and Methodius, who was at the root of the creation of Slavonic writing.
»  After the Second World War, the university was left by professors who didn’t support the communist ideology. Nowadays, the University of Sofia is the main education center in the country.

Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church, Sofia

Location on the map:     Interesting facts:
» The Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church, or Seven Saints Church, was built at the site of the Black Mosque in 1903. The mosque was called like this because its minaret was made of black marble. The Black Mosque was founded in 1528.
»  When Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire, it was abandoned and dilapidated. The Christian Church was rebuilt on the initiative of A. N. Pomerantsev. A bell tower with four bells was constructed. The church was consecrated in honor of St. Cyril and Methodius and their followers: Savva, Clement, Nahum, Angelar, and Gorazd.
»  When the church was rebuilt, the excavations were conducted. Under the foundation, the fragments of an old Christian Church dating back to the 5th century were found. Also, the fragments of Asklepion, the temple of the Roman god of medicine Asklepios where people were treated, were found here.
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