LANDMARKS IN SOFIA -> The St. Sofia church
The St. Sofia church, which is across from the cathedral, gave its name to the city and is still one of Sofia's treasures. It is one of the most remarkable early Christian' churches. It was built during the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th centuries and is one of the few buildings remaining from the time of the Emperor Justinian.
In the beginning it served as a fortress, where people could hide from the incursions of barbarian tribes. Later it played an active role in the life of Serdika, as it was the metropolitan church. A large church council was held here with the attendance of 170 eastern and western worshippers. St. Sofia was a necropolis (burial church) during the Middle Ages. Even today archeologists continue excavations in the underground area of the church, where burial rooms were discovered. When the city was conquered by the Turks, they converted the church into a mosque and even erected a minaret on the grounds. All the Christian frescoes were removed. According to legend the son of one Turkish imam died during an earthquake, which razed a large section of the churches' external walls. This sign from God led to the Muslims leaving the temple. The church remained closed a long time. After the Liberation it was converted into a warehouse, where the gas for the street lamps was stored. It was restored in 1937. The excavations have proved that 4 earlier churches had existed on the same location. From the first, fragments of the floor mosaic have survived until today. St. Sofia is a three-naved basilica. It follows the classic Byzantine plan in the form of a cross with a cupola at the point of intersection. Many ideas for the building's interior were taken from Roman architecture. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in memory of the nation's war casualties, is near the wall of the church. In the granite niche there is Bulgarian soil taken from each region, where decisive battles were fought. The memorial was erected in 1981 in honor of the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state. The lion, as always, symbolizes the power of the state.
The grave of the national poet and writer Ivan Vazov is nearby, behind the church. It is walled in with engraved stone. Before his death, Vazov requested that the city's authorities bury him "among the people". On the other side of St. Sofia is the monument to Vazov.
Across from the eternal flame of the Unknown Soldier is the Holy Synod - the headquarters of the Bulgarian Patriarch. The building is in medieval style and was constructed according to the architectural plans of the eminent Bulgarian architects Momchilov and Milanov. The front facade shows elements and architectural forms from medieval Bulgarian and Byzantine styles, the multicolored mosaic for example. Three Bulgarian priests, who took a decisive part in the struggle for Bulgarian church independence, are depicted above the main entrance.
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