Located in immediate proximity to the Socialist-style Central Department Store (TZUM) and the ruins of ancient Sofia is a small medieval Christian Orthodox church called St Petka of the Saddlers. It is especially famous for its ruins and its somewhat controversial history.
The small church was built in the 11th century above and old Roman crypt. During the Middle Ages this part of Sofia was inhabited by many saddle makers. Saint Petka was their patron and so the church was named after her. It is a one-nave building, partially dug into the ground. Its walls are made of bricks and stones.
Its most impressive features are the murals. They depict scenes from the Bible and were painted in different times. Today, the oldest murals we can see date from the 14th century and there are also two more layers of murals, dating from the 15th and the 16th century. The church was restored and opened for the public in the 70s of the 20th century.
It is believed that one of Bulgaria’s greatest national heroes – Vasil Levski, who was executed for his revolutionary activities – was reburied in the church. The hypothesis has never been proven but still, there’s a sign next to the church, stating that “according to the memory of the people” and “a number of scientific sources” Levski might have really been buried in the little church. Nevertheless, this topic is considered highly controversial to this very day.
The St Petka of the Saddlers church is fully functional. Its official holiday is 28 October which is St Petka’s Day in Bulgaria. It can be visited from Monday to Sunday, from 07:30 till 19:30. The easiest way to reach it is by metro. It is located very close to one of the entrances of Serdika metro station and is within walking distance of any other site located in the center of Sofia.