St George Rotunda
An Early Christian rotunda with red bricks, the Church of Sts George is deemed Sofia’s oldest building. The rotunda is nestled amid remnants of the ancient town of Serdica just behind the Sheraton Hotel.
Erected in the 4th century by the Romans, it is characterised by a structure with a cylindrical dome that sits on a square base.
The name of the current archpriest is Ioan Kukov.
The church is trusted to have been constructed on a pagan temple’s site. However, its initial purpose was intended to be for public use.
It is believed that the holy relics of the Bulgarian patron and Saint – St. Ivan Rilski – were kept in the church. On the word of a legend, the relics were utilised to heal the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus. 1183 saw the Hungarians, during the sway of Béla III, steal the relics when the allied Magyars and Serbs invaded, demolished, and plundered the then Serdica.
In the 16th century, during the Ottoman reign, the church was turned into a mosque. Later, in the mid-19th century, it was abandoned by the Muslims and soon after that, the Bulgarian population reclaimed its initial purpose of a Christian temple.
Frescoes dating from the 12th, 13th, and 14th century adorn St. George’s central dome. Archaeologists discovered three layers of frescoes, the earliest of which stemming from the 10th century. The dome is crowned by jaw-dropping frescoes of 22 prophets that are more than 2 metres tall.
Peculiarly enough, these marvellous frescoes were only exposed and reinstated in the 20th century.
The magnificent St George Rotunda is positioned in the patio between the Presidency and the Sheraton Hotel at a level, which is a few meters below the contemporary streets of the Bulgarian capital.
Incredible and surprising church in the Presidency courtyard
The St Petka of the Saddlers church is especially famous for its ruins and its somewhat controversial history since the 11th century.