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‘St. Alexander Nevisky Monumental Cathedral Sofia, Bulgaria’ by K.J.S.Chatrath

Travelling by bus in Eastern Europe, our Group reached Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, late in the afternoon and went straight to the St. Alexander Neviski Monumental Church. We were stunned by the building and its unusual architecture. A Bulgarian guide proudly and quite lovingly and explained us the details.

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Immediately after the liberation of Bulgaria, Constitutive National Assembly took a decision to build a St. Alexander Neviski Monumental Cathedral in Sofia.  St. Alexander  Neviski was the victor over the Teutonians near lake Ladog . He was also the patron of the Tsar-Liberator. Saint Alexander Nevisky was a Russian prince. budapest-etc-june-2013-272-450-b-80-jpg

The cathedral was constructed in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.The Cathedral was built on an area of 2600 sq. m., measuring 70X55 m. The cornerstone was laid in 1882 and the construction began in 1904 and ended in 1916. It was sanctified in 1924. It is a Bulgarian Orthodox church. It can accomodate 10,000 people inside.

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It is a cross-domed basilica featuring an emphasized central dome. The cathedral’s gold-plated dome is 45 m high (148 ft), with the bell tower reaching 53 metres (174 ft). budapest-etc-june-2013-128-450-b-80-jpg

There is a museum of Bulgarian icons inside the cathedral crypt, part of the  National Art Gallery. The church claims that the museum contains the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe.

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The monument is an example of the synthesis between monumental and decorative arts. The design was developed by architect A. Pomeranstav who kept it close to the characteristics of Bulgarian and Byzantine architecture. The rich plascic décor of facades and the interiors of the cathedral recalls the shapes of the decoration of the Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul and Roman plastic  traditions.

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(Text with inputs from the internet & information displayed at the church site).

Photos & copyright K.J.S.Chatrath.

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4 Responses to “‘St. Alexander Nevisky Monumental Cathedral Sofia, Bulgaria’ by K.J.S.Chatrath”

  1. Madhukar says:

    There is a great rendition of the story of Alexander Nevsky in an eponymous movie by the great Russian director Sergei Eisenstein. It is interesting to note that while Nevsky was battling the Teutonic knights in the West Russia was still in the thrall of the Golden Hordes of Mongols who held a loose control of many vassal states right up to the borders of Poland and Hungary.
    The other interesting feature relates to how when Russians sought to fellow Slavs in Bulgaria from Ottoman (Uthman or Usman or Osman) rule the other major European powers of France and Britain did not intervene though they had fought the Russians just a decade and a half earlier in Crimea to prevent Russian domination of the Turks. This was because Bulgarian War of Independence was cast in religious mode of fight for liberation of Christians from Muslim Turks.
    Iconography in the Orthodox Churches has had a chequered history since many times in the past there have been iconoclast movements which destroyed these icons as they were seen as idols and idolatry is proscribed in all Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions.

  2. chat says:

    I tremble before the depth and range of your knowledge. Thanks Madhukar, I always learn something new from your observations.

  3. keshav says:

    The Alexander Nevsky movie that you mentioned is indeed one of Sergei Eisenstein’s classics. Released in 1939, it influenced literally every epic movie ever since, and the battle scenes were among the largest ever filmed in ages. And the score by Sergei Prokofiev was groundbreaking as well.

    Of course, the movie shouldn’t be taken as an entirely accurate depiction of the battle (Prince Alexander was just 22 at the time of the battle and not in his 30s) and the movie itself was greatly influenced by a need to please Joseph Stalin and his political interests. The Knights Templar stood in for the Nazis, the Mongols stood in for the Japanese and Nevsky was supposed to represent Stalin himself – and Uncle Joe was happy to see his favorite actor being cast for the role. That aside, it truly is a classic, and its influence on all later cinema has been nothing short of profound.

    For what it’s worth, that cathedral seems to have taken many design cues from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. I might add regarding the “Holy War” aspect of the Russian conquest of Slavic lands – that particular aspect had the pernicious effect of isolating Jews and subjecting them to constant pogroms throughout Eastern Europe. Previously, under Muslim rule, they had enjoyed protection and limited rights as “people of the book”. The Russians landed up setting an especially bad precedent here.

    • chat says:

      Hey where are you Keshav- in Bengaluru or in the USA? Your comments have reminded me that I have to write about that lunch in Lucknow.

      Thank you for your so very illuminating comments about the Alexabder Nevvisky movie.

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