Some say that it’s beautiful and others – that it’s ugly. But the truth is there is no way you can pass this central part of the Bulgarian capital without noticing the huge gilded Sveta Sofia Statue. Strategically placed, the Sveta Sofia Statue is one of the emblems of the city.
The statue is situated just a few meters away from Serdika metro station. Its location is anything but random. This is where the main western gate of the city was in ancient times. Later, the medieval church of St. Spas was built on the same place but was completely destroyed in the Second World War. During the communist regime a statue of Lenin stood at this spot but was removed in 1991. The Sveta Sofia Statue was erected in 2000 and just in two days!
The statue was made in the course of nine months by sculptor Georgi Chapkanov and architect Stanislav Konstantinov. It features a 8.08-meter tall statue placed on a 16-meter tall dark granite pylon. Sophia is represented as a pagan goddess, holding a wreath (a symbol of glory) and having an owl (a symbol of wisdom) perched on her arm. She has a gilded crown, face, arms and toes and has no eyes, which gives her the look of an ancient golden mask. The choice of the owl element isn’t accidental – the bird is a symbol of wisdom and this is exactly what the name of the saint (and the name of the city, for that matter) stands for.
A lot of controversy surrounds the Sveta Sofia Statue and it has almost nothing to do with its slightly erotic appearance. From the very beginning of the project, the statue was associated with Christianity but it turned out the church didn’t want to be related in any way to the pagan-looking saint. Some believe the saint was actually a representation of Sofia mayor Stefan Sofiyanski’s wife (or even daughter). Interestingly, Sofiyanski was the one who initiated the project. Others claim the statue represents the goddess of night and darkness Lilith or Ishtar who is a symbol of sexuality or even Satan’s wife. Regardless of all these theories, the Sveta Sofia Statue stands and watches over the city, reflecting each sunrise on its golden face.