St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is high in symbolism as it is commemorative in nature. The cathedral was constructed between 1882 and 1912 and was dedicated to the brave Russian soldiers who participated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1878 and who have sacrificed themselves in order to liberate the Bulgarian population from under Turkish domination.
It was this particular battle that had put an end to 5 centuries of Ottoman ruling over this land and had given the Bulgarians their freedom.
Location and Structure
The cathedral is located in a square which bears the same name and it is found in close proximity of another memorial of high value: the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. The edifice, which is one of the largest Orthodox Cathedral on the planet, consists of five naves and it is beautifully adorned by frescoes, mosaics, stained glass windows, marble and sculptures.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral has a surface of 34.100 sq. ft. and it is big enough to house as much as 10,000 people within its walls.
The cathedral has a neo-byzantine architectural style, the interior being richly and colorfully adorned. The materials used in the décor are Italian marble, alabaster, onyx, gold and the like. The edifice has an impressive dome which measures 45 m in height and a belfry of 53 m. There are 12 bells found in the cathedral which range in terms of their weight, the heaviest one reaching 12 tons.
The original plan of the edifice was developed by Ivan Bogomolov, but this was changed almost in its entirety by the architect Alexander Pomerantsev who supervised the construction of the cathedral. The final result was the merit of a group of artists, engineers and workers from different parts of Europe: Bulgaria, Russia, Austria, Hungary, etc.
The decorative elements were not manufactured in Bulgaria, but where shipped to this country from different parts of the world: the marble and the lighting equipment was brought from Munich, the gates were made in Vienna but with parts brought in from Berlin, whereas the mosaics were transported from Venice.
The name of the edifice
The cathedral did not bear the same name all the time. There was a brief period when the edifice was known as the St. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral (from 1916 until 1920). This shift in name occurred as a consequence of the fact that Russia and Bulgaria fought on opposite sides of the battlefield during the Second World Conflagration.
But afterwards, the edifice received its former name. It was in 1924, more exactly on the 12th of September, that the edifice was officially recognized as a cultural monument.
The edifice also has underground catacombs which have been transformed into a museum where various iconographic representations are on display. The officials of the cathedral sustain that this museum is home of one of the largest collections of Orthodox icons on the European continent, although there is no evidence to support this statement.
Other tourist attractions
Tourists that decide to visit St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral will be pleased to learn that there is another church situated in close proximity of the cathedral – St. Sofia Church. There are also other symbols of the Bulgarian culture situated in this vicinity: the Monument of the Unknown Soldier (as it has been mentioned previously), the Parliament Building, the National Gallery of Foreign Art and many more, all being important tourist attractions.
If you want to buy a souvenir to remind you of the visit you made to Bulgaria, you should definitely visit the nearby bazaar where you can acquire icons, antiques or textiles beautifully made by hand.