Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

South East Europe / Western Trans-Balkan Road

Sofia, the historical town

Sofia, the historical town

About the site

Corridor: Diagonal Road, Western Trans-Balkan Road, Sofia-Ohrid Road
Country: Bulgaria, Sofia
Type: Historic Town
Epoch: 20th Century, Modern Times, Middle Ages, Antiquity
World Heritage:
20th CenturyModern TimesMiddle AgesAntiquityHistoric Town

Sofia is situated in a high-mountainous field with geothermal waters, which due to its favourable natural-geographic conditions has been inhabited for millenniums. Traces, discovered 9-10m below the present level of the town, prove the existence of settlement during the Bronze Age. The town came into being close to the strategic crossroad of the traditional roads connecting Europe with Asia and the Mediterranean. During its centuries-old existence the town develops continuously, each period leaving its imprint on town’s image. A synthesis of that is the motto of the Bulgarian capital: “Ever growing – never old”.
During the period of Roman colonisation (2nd –7th c.) the town was known as Ulpia Serdika, being centre of the Roman province “Inner Dacia” and was a flourishing town.
After the collapse of the Roman empire, the town was destroyed by the Goths and Huns. It was restored during the Byzantine period and during the reign of the Emperor Justinian it regained its impressive scale. The best preserved and restored monument from that period is the “St. Sophia” basilica (6th c.), built within the large necropolis of Serdika, over the ruins of three earlier churches.
During the Medieval Bulgarian state, under the name Sredets (Centre), the town was a military and administrative centre of West Bulgaria, reaching material and spiritual prosperity. A number of small but richly decorated churches were built.
After including the town within the boundaries of the Ottoman empire, Sredets was the main town in “Roumelia” province and developed as busy Muslim centre with typical Oriental outlook. From that period are preserved the “Bujuk” mosque and “Bania Bashi” mosque, as well as the Orthodox church “St. Petka Samardjiiska”, built over the remains of more ancient Byzantine and Roman structures.
At the end of the 19th c. the architectural image of Sofia was substantially changed – right after the Liberation, when Sofia was declared capital of the Bulgarian principality. The first large-scale urban activities were carried out and a number of residential and public buildings were built (the King’s Palace, the Military Club, the National Assembly etc.) – these buildings were executed by European architects following the main architectural ideas and trends at that time.
During the 20th c. the image of Sofia continued t be developed under the European influence by large number of Bulgarian architects. Most outstanding examples are the Central Market Hall, Sofia Mineral Baths, the Court, Sofia University, the National Theatre, the National Library, the National Bank, etc. A number of churches were built as well – the cathedral “St. Alexander Nevski”, the Russian church, the church “St. Nedelia” and one of the biggest synagogues in Europe. Residential construction developed also rapidly – along with family houses were built a number of multi-storey residential blocks of flats, forming the present urban structure. The socialist period (1944-1989) left its imprint with the construction of the new administrative centre of the capital and the numerous panel housing estates and industrial zones on the wide newly developed territories of the Sofia field.

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