Saint Nicholas - Russian Church (Sofia)

Saint Nicholas - Russian Church



Russian Church of Saint Nicholas that stands in the centre of Sofia was build by the Russian embassy of Sofia for its employees from 1907 till 1914. Without a doubt it has very Russian features and differ from all other Bulgarian churches that you will see in Sofia. After Revolution of 1917 Russian immigrants regarded this church as symbol of their faith. Recently canonized Saint Seraphim (Sobolev) is buried in the underground section of the church. The door to the crypt is on the western side of the church. Orthodox and non- Orthodox alike come and write letters to the saint so that he can help them with problems. Judging from personal experience and several friends’ this somewhat weird tradition actually helps.



First project
At the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a significant Russian community was formed in Sofia, consisting mainly of Russian experts. Then there were plans to build a separate temple for her.

In 1882, the city authorities provided a plot of 1400 square meters on the site of the destroyed then mosque. The committee created for the construction of the temple began to collect donations. The laying of the temple was planned in 1902. However, for various reasons (mainly political), it was postponed.

All this time, members of the Russian community have been praying in a hall located at a diplomatic agency.

Modern temple
The laying of the modern church took place on September 2 (15), 1907 in the presence of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, Bulgarian Prince Ferdinand with the heir to the throne, Boris.

The author of the project is Mikhail Timofeevich Preobrazhensky. By 1911, the building was ready in draft, but the decoration and painting continued for more than two years.

The consecration of the church on November 11 (24), 1914, was led at the request of the Bulgarian Exarch Joseph (Yovchev) (then in schism), Metropolitan Dorostolsky and Chervensky Vasily (Mikhailov), co-served by members of his Synod and the Russian clergy (which violated the old line of the Russian Synod to prevent concession) .

When Bulgaria entered the First World War in October 1915 on the side of the Central Powers (against Russia), diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and Russia were interrupted, the diplomatic mission and the Russian clergy were evacuated to Russia, the church service was stopped.

From January 2, 1920 until the beginning of 1923, the Russian diplomatic mission of the government of General Anton Denikin, headed by Alexander Petryaev, operated in Sofia; she was charged with protecting the interests of Russian refugees and the Russian church in Bulgaria. After the mission was closed, its property, along with the property of the church, was sealed by a commission appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Confessions of Bulgaria.

The temple, which was in the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, continued to operate, but without its property and archive - until 1933, when, in anticipation of the establishment of Bulgarian-Soviet diplomatic relations, the government of the People’s Bloc decided to transfer the church property to the Father Superior of the Russian Church in Sofia, N. Vladimirovsky . After intense negotiations on the conditions for establishing diplomatic relations, on September 15, 1934, the church at the Embassy of the USSR was transferred for temporary use to the Bulgarian state through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Confession; On December 18 of the same year, the Ministry transferred the church and all its property to the Sofia Metropolitanate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

After the establishment of the pro-communist government of the “Patriotic Front” in Bulgaria, in June 1946, the Soviet Union allowed some Russian emigrants to accept USSR citizenship, which allowed them to be transferred for temporary use for worship. On December 28, 1946, after restoration and repair, the temple was transferred to the jurisdiction of Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), who administers the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Bulgaria (formerly in the episcopate of ROCOR). The latter was buried in the crypt of the temple in 1950.

Since November 1952 it has the status of the courtyard of the Moscow Patriarchate in Sofia.

In 1975-1977, work was carried out to restore the murals of the temple, in 1982, the iconostasis was re-gilded. New repairs were made in 1994-1996.

Architecture, decoration
In terms of plan, the temple is a pillarless quadruple with adjoining altar and side rooms, as well as a porch-porch with a gable roof made of green glazed tiles. Above the entrance is a majolica image of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.

The cylindrical drum of the dome ends with a tent, which is also covered with irrigation tiles and crowned with a gilded head with a cross. The tent is surrounded by four gilded onions, towering above the crown of kokoshniks.

The wide frieze is made up of multi-colored tiles. Window frames are made of white stone.

The mural was made in the traditional Russian style under the direction of V.T. Perminov. The painting was done in tempera in matt colors.

The majolica iconostasis was made in St. Petersburg.

Church bells are given from Emperor Nicholas II.

In 1950, Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) was buried in the crypt of the temple, his tomb in 1987 was decorated with marble.