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Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Sofia, 20th century)

Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Sofia, 20th century)

Built in Neo-Byzantine style, this Orthodox cathedral is one of the symbols of the Bulgarian capital city.

Visual Arts


Alexander Nevsky, Alexander Pomerantsev, Neo-Byzantine, cathedral, orthodox, church, Byzantine, Anton Mitov, architecture, building, Sofia, Bulgaria, religion, symbol, dome, saint, patron saint, bell tower, icon, Balkans, Balkan Peninsula, Bulgarian, 20th century

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  • granite base (1.4 m or 4.6 ft)

  • cross (2.5 m or 8.2 ft)


The Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the most famous symbols of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It has served as the patriarchal cathedral of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church since 1953. The cathedral was named after Saint Alexander Nevsky – patron of the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878.

The foundation stone was laid on February 19, 1882. There are two texts buried in the church’s foundations that immortalize the events of the war. The cathedral was erected solely through donations from the Bulgarian people. The construction was completed in 1912 but owing to the raging wars and political perturbations, it was only officially consecrated in 1924.

The cathedral was designed by Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsev. It is a five-nave, cross-domed basilica in the Neo-Byzantine style. Its most striking structural elements are the crossed dome, the complex system of domes and the bell tower.

With its impressive size and ornamentation, the cathedral rivals the world’s most famous houses of worship of this kind. It is 72 m (236.22 ft) long, 55 m (180.45 ft) wide, 53 m (173.88 ft) high and has an area of 3,170 sq m (34,121 sq ft). The church can hold up to 5,000 people. It can be entered through 11 doors. Above the main entrance rises the bell tower, finished off by a dome. The total weight of the 12 bells is about 25 tons. Around 700 sq m (7,534.7 sq ft) of the cathedral’s overall dome surface is gold-plated.

The façade, arches and friezes are decorated with stone ornaments featuring Protobulgarian motifs. It was constructed by a team of Bulgarian, Russian, German, Austrian, Czech and Italian builders and professionals.

The church houses over 400 pieces of Christian art: icons, frescos and mosaics. The central nave vault alone is covered with 412 sq m (4,434.7 sq ft) of frescos. The interior decorations are made of onyx, marble and alabaster from all around the globe. The mosaics, designed by Anton Mitov, were created in Italy.

The icons were made by Russian and Bulgarian artists. Along with the Bulgarian saints, the cathedral walls are also painted with images of Russian, Serbian and other Slavic tsars and saints. The church’s crypt, initially intended to serve as a pantheon of distinguished Bulgarians, was reconstructed into a museum of Bulgarian icons.

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