The Blog

Sofia's Stunning Gold-Domed Cathedral, at Sunrise

I did not come to Sofia to sightsee. Having lived and worked in the capital of Bulgaria for two years, my vacation was planned as an opportunity to see friends, old and new; to relive my Bulgarian experience; to travel to places not previously visited; and as an opportunity to get inspiration for my future writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

Whenever family or friends visited us in Bulgaria, we always took them to the center of the city to see Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - the stunning gold-domed cathedral that serves as the capital's landmark attraction. The domes are spectacular; the dark interior with icons and paintings of the saints serves candle-lighting pilgrims, as is typical of Eastern Orthodox churches.

The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is not only the biggest church in Sofia; it is also one of the biggest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. Constructed between 1882 and 1898, the cathedral was designed by Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsev and is named for Alexander Nevsky, a Russian prince (1221-1263). The cathedral was created in honor of the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), the war which led to Bulgaria's liberation from nearly 500 years of Ottoman rule.

On my recent visit to Sofia, I was staying at the Crystal Palace Hotel, literally seven minutes away from the cathedral by foot.

I asked myself - why not see what Alexander Nevsky looks like at sunrise? I set my alarm to 5:45 am, assured that I would make it to the cathedral in time. I left my wife sleeping in our hotel room and made my way on the quiet, empty cobblestone streets. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.

I had the plaza surrounding the cathedral all to myself. The church's doors were locked, but I had no plans to enter. A sliver of the moon was visible above the cross on the highest dome.

I circled the structure, and waited for the sun to rise. The result was spectacular.