The Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church, positioned in Sofia’s very heart, is a Bulgarian Orthodox church. The building was erected in the period 1901-1902 by transforming a forsaken Ottoman mosque into a church. The inauguration took place on July 27th, 1903. St. Cyril and Methodius, together with their five disciples, are collectively known as the Sedmochislenitsi in the Orthodox Church, so that’s from where the temple derives its name.
The so-called Black Mosque was erected in 1528 following an order of Suleiman the Magnificent.
His intention for it was to be more beautiful and impressive than all Christian temples in the city. Although uncertain, the mosque’s construction is ascribed to the popular Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
A place which used to be both a pagan temple of Asclepius, dating from Roman Serdica, and later, a former nunnery of the famous Rila Monastery were the mosque’s foundations. The ruins of those temples were unearthed in 1901.
The Black Mosque derived it peculiar name due to the dark granite – the foundation material for its minaret. However, in the 19th century following an earthquake, the minaret collapsed. After the Liberation of Bulgaria, the Ottomans abandoned the mosque which became a prison and a military warehouse.
It was the Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsev who suggested the mosque’s transformation into a Christian church. The narthex, the bell tower, and the dome were crafted by the eminent Bulgarian architects Petko Momchilov and Yordan Milanov. They did them in a traditional Bulgarian style, which was inspired by the Romanticism movement. The only preserved things from the former mosque where the dome and the central hall. An altar section, a narthex, and four oval bays were added.
The church’s construction took only a year (1901-1902), but it was in 1996 when the complete inner decoration was finished. Petko Karavelov, a very famous Bulgarian statesman contributed substantially to the church’s construction, and he was buried in its vicinity in 1903.