Last weekend, Mark and I set out to find the glorious Nevski church, one of the most famous landmarks here in Sofia. I spent all 7 of my college years (I’m including my Master’s degree—I didn’t just go through college slowly) at a Catholic University, so I have developed a love for giant, overly decorated churches. Imagine my excitement when I saw this:

Perhaps you are thinking, “WOW! What a huge church. They must have built that centuries ago”, which is what I thought, too. But, no. The Nevski church was built between 1882 and 1912. Not so long ago. Without giving away too much of a future history lesson, I will tell you that the Turks ruled Bulgaria for 500 years and the Bulgarians were not happy to have them here. In the late 1800s, the Russians helped the Bulgarians beat the Turks. So, the Bulgarians basically love the Russians and hate the Turks.

The church is named after Saint Aleksander Nevsky, who was a famous warrior in Russian history. The Bulgarians built the church as a way to remember the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting in the war to free them from the Turks.

This church is one of the largest, fanciest Orthodox churches in Europe. The Orthodox religion is similar to the Catholic church, but not exactly the same…more on that later. Inside the church was painted by Russian and Bulgarian artists and there are scenes from the Bible on the walls and ceilings. As with any church, you are not allowed to take photos inside because it ruins the artwork, and because the inside of a church is a holy place. But you can see what the inside of the church looks like here.

Under the church, in the crypt, is a museum that holds Orthodox religious icons found all over Europe since the 12th Century, and is considered to be one of the largest and most valuable collections to exist. In case you don’t know, an icon is a painting or a sculpture of anything that is considered to be holy. Here is an example.

On the outside, Nevski church is huge and fills up a whole square in the city. Next to the church is a park with small, meandering paths and benches.


On the other side is a bizarre where vendors sell some handmade items, some junk. Bulgaria is known for its embroidery, so some of the women sell their embroidered pieces here. Men sell old Russian army uniforms and paraphernalia. On a nice day, such as the day we visited, you can walk through the square and have lunch at a café in the park.

So, Nevski Church. Stop 1 on our Sofia sightseeing tour.

p.s. I loaded more photos of the church in the gallery. Click on the picture on the right to see them!