If there is one place that is a well-known and most recognizable symbol of Sofia, it’s the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, located on the capital’s distinctive yellow paving stones. If you look at today’s map of Sofia, you will notice that it is located almost exactly in its centre, or so to speak – directly in the heart of the capital.
The magnificent Orthodox Cathedral commemorates the sacrifice of all the brave men, Bulgarians and Russians, who fought and lost their lives in the Russian-Turkish War of 1878, which led to the liberation of the country from 5 centuries of Ottoman rule. The church was built as a symbol of gratitude. The choice of the church’s patron, Alexander Nevsky, is a gesture of respect, as he was the personal patron of the Russian Emperor Alexander II, who ruled the country during Bulgaria’s war of liberation.
It is interesting to note that the main stone laid for the temple – the monument is Vitoshka granite, a monolith-morena. It is located in the crypt part of the temple, intended for the pantheon of eminent and meritorious Bulgarians, which, however, since 1966, has been adapted for the gallery of the Medieval Bulgarian Icon, a branch of the National Art Gallery in Sofia. You can visit it and admire its size in the so-called “Golden Hall”.
Nowadays, the space around the temple monument is a place for Bulgarian youngsters. It becomes the location of the annual balls and graduation parties, contrasting with the tranquillity of the temple, which usually takes place in the last two weeks of May. Here, the young graduates make their midnight rendezvous with cars, during which the new drivers share the euphoria of the ride with their friends.
The yellow pavement spreading from the Cathedral to the Independence Square has been the most iconic symbol in the capital’s landscape for decades. It symbolises the administrative, historical, and cultural heart of the city and has witnessed civil protests, military parades, aerial bombardments, and sieges. Their history is surrounded by many urban myths and legends that reinforce their status as an informal monument of culture with multiple symbolisms. In urban jargon today, “born on the yellow pavements” is the epitome of a person of the elite, an aristocrat, someone with power or at least access to class, luxury, and wealth.
The paving stones extend to ul. Moskovskaya, the iconic street that runs from Alexander Nevsky and houses a permanent art and antiques market.
#soSofia tip: Shake up your photography – look for the gold-plated domes of the Cathedral from various spots in the city.