Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Aleksander Nevski Square, 1000 Sofia Center.
The crypt is entered from the northwest entrance of the church of Alexander Nevski.
All year daily 7-19.
Crypt: All year Tue-Sun 10-18, last entry 17:30.
Closed Holidays, 01-JAN.
Crypt: Adults BGN 6, Children (0-12) free, School Pupils BGN 3, Students BGN 3, Seniors BGN 3, Disabled free.
Thursdays BGN 2, Guide BGN 30.
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Guided tours:||self guided. Guided tours available in|
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Aleksander Nevski Square, 1000 Sofia Center, Tel: +359-2-988-1704.
Museum of Christian Art, Assoc. Prof. Ralitsa Ruseva, Head of Department, Tel: +359-2-981-57-75. E-mail:
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1879||construction decided by the general assembly.|
|1904||begin of construction.|
|1924||official sanctification of the temple.|
|1965||crypt converted into a branch of the National Art Gallery for Orthodox Art.|
Патриаршеската катедрала “Св. Александър Невски” (Patriarchal Cathedral St. Alexander Nevsky) is an iconic Bulgarian Orthodox church with Neo-Byzantine architecture, praised as being one of the most Instagram worthy buildings in Europe. Located in the center of Sofia it was built in the middle of a circular square, in the center of a roundabout, surrounded by a park with numerous neo-classic public buildings. There are the St. Sophia Basilica, the National Gallery, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria. And in the center is the cathedral, with 50 m high golden cupolas and a length of 72 m and a width 55 m. On the western facade of the bell tower is a mosaic icon of St. Alexander Nevski, made by the Bulgarian painter Anton Mitov. It was built at the end of the 19th century as a symbol and a memorial of the fight for freedom. Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878, after being occupied by the Ottoman Turks since the 14th century. And the religion was an important point, as the occupiers were Muslims.
But the reason why we listed this building is a vast underground structure, the (Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Underground Crypt). The church has a rather big crypt in the basement, which has obviously no historic relevance and was never used to bury priests. It was simply a basement and part of the foundation of the church. Originally it was planned to be the necropolis of the Bulgarian kings, but when the church was sanctified in 1924, there was no monarchy anymore, due to World War I.
This vast space was used for a unique and large collection of orthodox icons, from the 4th to the 19th century. While this is certainly not the only icon museum, it is said to be the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe. The oldest icons are from the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century. There are also three fragments of wall paintings, engravings and other antique religious artifacts. The crypt itself is also worth the visit: Artisans and artists have worked for 30 years in order to create 300 frescoes and decorative elements of marble, onyx, alabaster and gold.
The exhibition is a branch of the adjacent National Art Gallery. On their website they call it Изкуство по българските земи IV-XIX век (Christian Art on the Bulgarian Lands, 4th-19th Centuries). The collection of Christian art numbers some 2,000 works, icons, frescoes, and church plate. They are grouped by their origin, Preslav, Nesebar, Plovdiv and Vratsa, Rila and Dragalevtsi Monasteries, the Poganovo Monastery of St John the Theologian, and others. Several of those monasteries are underground and listed separately on showcaves.com.
The earliest exhibit is a fresco fragment of an image of a saint from the early Christian basilica in the village of Khan Krum, Shumen region (4th–5th century). The Preslavian painted ceramics are a unique artistic phenomenon, a ceramic icon shows an image of St Paul the Apostle. The collection contains the earliest known icon on wood from the end of the 11th century. It is two-sided, showing an image of Christ Pantocrator on one side and the Crucifixion of Christ on the other. Many icons are from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185–1396), the Palaiologan Renaissance. The exhibition includes icons from the 16th to the 18th century, an era of new flowering of Orthodox art throughout the Balkans. It was the result of the renovation and rebuilding of many monasteries and churches. A highlight is the Beadroll of Bulgarian Monarchs from the Poganovo Monastery, which is today located in Serbia. The chronological end of the exhibition is the Bulgarian National Revival which began in the late 18th century. Additionally, the collection preserves Russian icons (17th–19th century) and works of Ethiopian ecclesiastical art.