Angels in the Architecture

nevskysnowWhat’s at the center of the city where you live? If it’s an older city, chances are there’s a church or mosque or synagogue. While cities may have grown up around trading routes or transportation lines, a house of worship usually took over or was planted at the heart of the city.

Sofia, Bulgaria, is no exception. In fact, it’s quite amazing how churches are omnipresent in its heart. There are ancient churches and more modern ones, large and impressive churches and smaller and modest ones, mosques as well as Orthodox (both Bulgarian and Russian) and Catholic churches.

nevskyThe most central, both geographically and culturally, is the monumental Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Standing by itself, its golden and green domes stand out in the skyline even in dull winter weather. It is surrounded by a large square which provides a thoroughfare (we’ve seen presidential motorcades pass through, temporarily halting more common traffic) as well as a central parking spot for buses, offloading travelers from more distant parts of Bulgaria.

alexandernevskyIt’s a beautiful building, both inside and out. The soaring arches and hidden corners make it a fascinating place to walk around, and the rich golden icons (and silent worshippers) give a depth of experience even to non-believers. It’s not a cold, historical place. It’s actively used and obviously well-loved and looked after.

Having a church (or multiple houses of God) at the centre of the city does indeed show the soul of a place. While modern life (and modern cities) may have malls and shopping and business in the centre, having a place of quiet worship and faith in the heart of a city reveals a richer culture.

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