St George Church is a brick Rotunda that is considered as the oldest building in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Built by the Romans in the 4th century (😳), the building is famous for the 12th, 13th and 14th-century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century.
Interesting enough, if you have a building that ancient in your city, you would like to show it to people. That is not the case here. As you can see from the picture, the church is surrounded by tall buildings from any side. It’s like it has been hidden.
But why anybody would want to hide a church?
For the answer to this question we need to go back to World War II.
After Bulgaria lost the war when the country has been forced to join Nazi Germany, the winners of the war took over of the country. The Russians came on power in 1946 and brought the communism with them.
Things were going good actually. For about a decade, the Communist Party transformed the country from an agrarian peasant society to an industrialized socialist society. New energy and transportation infrastructure were constructed. By 1960 manufacturing became the dominant dominant sector of the economy and Bulgaria became a major exporter of household goods and, later on, computer technologies, earning it the nickname of “Silicon Valley of the Eastern Block“. Bulgaria has been a model for other socialist counties with its high productivity levels.
I already can hear you screaming “That’s nice, Pavel, but what all this has to do with the church?!”. I’m getting there…
Along with all this, The Soviet government has already launched a long- running campaign of eliminating religion from society. Spreading atheism, the Red Army was after the religion. The people connected to it were chased, imprisoned, publicly humiliated and even killed. Children were taught authism and churches, although not as severely threatened as they had been in the Soviet Union, were closed. Buildings were build around churches so they become difficult to reach and even hidden, just like St George Rotunda.
The communists were also using “tricks” as broadcasting foreign movies or TV programs during big religious celebrations like Christmas and Easter making people choose between going to the church or watch a program they will never have the chance to see again.
The total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime has been estimated to range between 12-20 million.
During the Ottoman period the church has been used as a mosque.
What do you think of that story? Does it make you feel amazed, sad, frustrated? Please share with a comment.
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4 thoughts on “The Oldest Building In Sofia: St George Rotunda; Communist Era in Bulgaria ~ 2 min read”
Wow, I didn’t know Bulgaria was known as the Silicon Valley of the Eastern Block! *wave of national pride* 😀 I think you should write a post about Bulgaria’s contribution to computer technology industry, it might be a curious read for people who never suspected we had anything to do with that 🙂
I just love the “I didn’t know that” comments. So much really 😊 thank you for writing this ♡
Yes, surely not many people know about Mr. Atanasoff’s contribution. I recently found out that a Romanian has discovered the penicillin first 😳 Credit goes to the big ones ..
Nicely contrasted against the communist era buildings in the background..
Thanks for stopping by, Mark 🙂