Saint Sophia or Sofia is just few hundred feet from Aleksander Nevski. The present day church was build in the 6th century during reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527- 565 AD). In Greek Sophia also means “Wisdom”. Initially this site was a Roman necropolis, then a theatre. Christians build several churches here, but they were destroyed by invasions of Goths and Huns. In the 13th century church gained a status of metropolitan church. It is this church that gave name of Sofia to the rest of the city in 14th century. However with invasion of the Ottomans the church became a mosque and all ancient frescoes were destroyed. After liberation of Bulgaria the Church was retaken by the Orthodox church. Near this church you can find the burial of Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a statue devoted to Paisiy Chilandarskiy, author of the Bulgarian history.
Serdica began to Christianize in the first years of the year AD. Christianity, however, remained suppressed by the legal restrictions of the Roman Empire until the beginning of the fourth century AD. On April 30, 311, Emperor Galerius issued the Edict of Serdica, granting Christians of Serdica the status of religious tolerance. Two years later, in 313 in Medellanum, Emperor Constantine the Great confirmed the edict of Galerius already - for the empire, through the Medellan edict.
In the twentieth century, Bulgarian science took the view that at least four smaller Christian temples were erected on the site of Saint Sofia, which preceded the present building (Stancheva, arch. Boyadzhiev). According to this opinion, the first early Christian temple was a martyr erected in the existing cemetery, which existed earlier from the Eastern Entrance Fortress (East Gate - Razg.) Of Serdika. This first building appears to have been built or rebuilt shortly after the Edict of Milan, with the altar mass found in it being roughly dated to the mid-4th century. It was initially rectangular in size, measuring 7.43 × 6.19 meters and with a semicircular apse to the east, and later extended and extended in a westerly direction to 14.51 × 6.19 meters. Around 380, a church was built in its place, which, without having a functional connection to it, retains its basic size, using the remains of its walls to support it. The ship is 4 meters longer and two more vessels have been added to the side, with the north being narrower so as not to affect existing tombs. The width of the apse reaches the width of the central nave, an architectural approach that compares with Syrian church architecture at that time. A little later, the church was rebuilt on the previous one for the third time. The side ships were expanded (the northern one by only half a meter) and the apse was enlarged in proportion. The whole central ship was further extended in a westerly direction and a narthex was added at its western end. This church has no long life; it was probably destroyed by invaders, maybe goths, a few years after the completion of construction. In the last years of the IV century, another new church was built on the site with a new mosaic floor (documented but not preserved) covering the remains of previous structures. This building was also destroyed, probably by the Huns in 443.
From the end of the 20th century, a critical new reading (arch. Ganchev, architect. Kitov, Chilingirov) was required of the arguments made until recently.
The current church
Much of the research of the Church of Saint Sofia in the 20th century agrees with the conclusion that it may have been built in the mid-5th century by Emperor Marcian or Leo I Thracian, and it may be possible to repeat the plan in some parts of a previous building. The church was affected at the end of the 5th century by alleged subsequent attacks, possibly on Bulgarians and Slavs, and underwent construction repairs around the middle of the 6th century under Emperor Justinian I. Like Saint Sofia in Constantinople, it was dedicated to The wisdom of God is one of the names of the young Jesus Christ. The name has been used for the city since at least the fourteenth century.
No later than the conquest of Serdika by the Bulgarian ruler Krum in 809, the arches of the three longitudinal ships and of the transverse ship (transept) were demolished, as well as the superstructure of the narthex. After the baptism of the Bulgarians in the second half of the ninth century, the church was repaired, and perhaps even then the defense towers were removed and the building acquired approximately its modern plan.
In the following centuries, Saint Sofia continued to be used extensively as a city cathedral church and a common place of worship because of its close proximity to one of the city's cemeteries. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (XII - XIV centuries), Saint Sofia acquired the status of a cathedral metropolitan church. Traces of murals dating from the 12th century, but not synthron, have been found.
Conversion into a mosque and desertion
After the Ottoman invasion, the temple was turned
into a mosque - the minaret was erected, the murals were destroyed.
Most probably the building was first destroyed during an earthquake
in the mid-15th century. At the end of the sixteenth century, it was
rebuilt as a mosque by the Ottoman Grand Vizier Siyavush Pasha.
Again, in 1818 and 1858, the building was severely damaged by
earthquakes, the minaret fell, and the rumor was released among the
Turks that they had angered the Gaura Lord, leaving the mosque
completely abandoned. The surviving part was turned into a
warehouse. On January 4, 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War of Free
Space, the troops of the Russian General Gurko were solemnly greeted
with gratitude at the Holy Sofia. The warehouse is closed, but
despite the vigorous discontent of the Sophians, by the end of the
19th century the high parts of the church were being used as a
watchtower by the capital's fire brigade.
Restoration in the XX century
In 1927 Saint Sofia was proclaimed a national antiquity (State Gazette, No. 69, 1927). Immediately after that, the first modern restoration of the temple was completed, which was completed in 1930.
On September 21, 1930, the church was consecrated and a ministry began.
In 1935, a systematic survey and restoration was carried out under the direction of Professor Bogdan Filov and architect Alexander Rashenov. In 1955 the temple was declared an architectural and architectural monument of culture of national importance (Izvestiya, No 73, 1955).
The temple was restored to its original appearance. His plan was conceived and realized on the basic idea - a Latin cross with an extended east arm ending with the apse, and the dome (without openings) centered on the intersection of the cruciform plan (a central ship crossed by a cross). This basic idea is disciplining in the construction and shaping of both the interior space and the highly influential external bulk solutions. The restoration of the exterior of the church was carried out in the period 1980 - 1981 under the project and under the direction of architects Hristo Ganchev and D. Damyanov of the National Institute for Cultural Monuments. In 1986, a team led by Hristo Ganchev developed a concept and program for the conservation, restoration and display of the interior of the Church of St. Sofia.
In the 1980s and 1990s the church was again restored and preserved, and on its southern facade the main official memorial of the Republic of Bulgaria - the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, was restored, designed by Nikola Nikolov. Then several more tombs and tomb architecture were discovered under it and in the immediate vicinity. This gives rise to a complex long-term architectural and historical project for detailed research, conservation, restoration and socialization of the whole complex.
The work on the conservation and display of the interior and the tombs and the construction of the first and only underground museum in Sofia was carried out by Vasil Kitov and was completed in 2012-2013.
The Anglo-American bombing of Sofia in 1944, which suffered similarly to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Church, also damaged St. Sofia.
Today, Saint Sophia Church is one of the most significant architectural values preserved from early Christian development in Southeastern Europe, of worldwide importance.
The writer Ivan Vazov is buried in the garden on the east side of the church. The church is one of the 100 National Tourist Sites of the Bulgarian Tourist Union.