Olli Thomson

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky cathedral is the seat of the Patriarch of Bulgaria. The cathedral is relatively new, built between 1882 and 1912, with most of the work taking place after 1904, and consecrated in 1924. Alexander Nevsky was a noted 13th century ruler of Russia who was canonised by the Orthodox church in the 16th century.

Naming the Patriarch’s cathedral after a Russian saint might seem strange, and for a brief period the cathedral was named for saints Cyril and Methodius, the two most revered saints in the Bulgarian Orthodox church. The Russian connection derives from the cathedral’s origins as a tribute to Csar Alexander II and the many Russian soldiers who fought and died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a war that ultimately resulted in Bulgaria’s liberation after five centuries of Ottoman rule.

The building is quite stunning, built in Neo-Byzantine style and situated in a broad, open square. The interior has an abundance of murals decorating the walls and ceilings. Unfortunately, some of these are in poor condition. (According to recent reports restoration of the cathedral is urgently needed). The crypt of the cathedral houses the Museum of Christian Art, part of the National Gallery, claimed to hold ‘among the richest collections of icons in the world’.

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