The oldest church in Sofia and the origin of the city’s name, the St. Sofia Church dates back to the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the sixth century. Built on the site of two fourth-century churches just outside of the city walls, it served as the city’s main cemetery church into the Middle Ages and, during the 12th century, it was likely the seat of Sofia’s bishop. After the Ottoman conquest, the church became a mosque and minarets were added. It was abandoned altogether after an earthquake struck in 1858 and later restored at the start of the 20th century.
The church building today is a three-aisled Byzantine-style basilica, with walls of exposed brick, a mosaicked floor and icons of historical saints. Fragments of mosaics from the fourth century can be seen in the floor of the south aisle. Outside of the church is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which memorializes the Bulgarians who were killed in World War I.
The St. Sofia Church is located on Alexander Nevsky ploschad and can be accessed from streetcar number 9 or trolley 20, 22 or 23. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m in the winter. Photos are not allowed inside.