Bulgaria has been a crossroads of religions and civilizations for ages and is known for its history of ethnic and religious tolerance. There are few cities where this is as evident as in Sofia. Just a stone’s throw away in the very centre of Sofia is four temples of the four leading religions, which are still actively professed today. These are the Orthodox Church “St. Nedelya”, the Catholic Church “St. Joseph”, the Banya Bashi Mosque, and the Sofia Synagogue, which together form the so-called Square of Tolerance. 


The oldest of the four buildings is the Banya Bashi Mosque, built in the mid-16th century. It is located in the heart of the Serdika Roman complex, near the hot mineral springs for which Sofia was built on this site. 


Just 150 m. to the west of the Mosque is the Sofia Synagogue. It is the largest synagogue in the Balkans and the third in Europe. Built in the early 20th century in the style of the Vienna synagogue, it was later demolished on Hitler’s orders. Inside, it housed a unique library, which was unfortunately destroyed during the bombing of Sofia. The current restored synagogue is larger than the old temple and was built in the Spanish-Moorish style, with shades of the Byzantine architectural tradition.


To the southwest of the synagogue, 200 m. away, a Catholic temple was built. The temple was designed before Bulgaria’s liberation but was completed in 1885. It was also affected by the bombing, so the current temple is its larger, restored version, built with the donations of Catholics from around the world. The first stone of the new structure was laid in the presence of Pope John Paul II.


Beyond the busy boulevard under which the Catholic temple stands, the cupolas of the Orthodox Church “St. Nedelya” can be seen. It rises on a site where there have been Orthodox churches since the Middle Ages. In 1925, the church was almost completely destroyed in a bloody attack organised by a group of far-left activists of the Military Organization of the Bulgarian Communist Party. It was rebuilt and rededicated in 1933. 


The Square of Tolerance is a cultural, architectural, and social phenomenon that mirrors the societal characteristics of the city and is worth visiting and experiencing.