Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church has a rich history dating back over 1000 years. Initially, the temple was known as Holy King’s Church as it housed the relics of the Serbian king Stefan Uroš II (1282 – 1321). The original church was likely built in the 10th century, and like many other churches in Sofia at the time, it had stone foundations and a wooden structure above. This form of the building existed until the mid-18th century.
The Bulgarian Revival Times
In the early 1850s, the Sofia Metropolis and the City Church Municipality decided to construct a new grand cathedral with a collection of donations. The old and worn Sveta Nedelya Chuch was demolished in 1856, and construction of the new cathedral began the same year. The new church was built as a three-nave basilica. The construction was led by a cave master named Petar Kazov from Macedonia. However, the construction was interrupted by an earthquake in 1858 and was further delayed. In 1863, the leaders of Sofia resumed the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church’s construction and hired the master builder Ivan Hr. Boyanin to complete the project. He increased the height of the walls, added three domes with small belfries, and constructed a stone arcade with 16 blind domes on the north, west, and south side of the church. The construction was completed the same year, and the decoration of the church took several more years. The Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church was further adorned with an iconostasis, bells, and other decorations and was consecrated by Exarch Metropolitan Meletius Zografski in 1877.
Later, the church board decided to improve the appearance and strengthen the surrounding terrain of the Sveta Nedelya Church. The design for the renovation was given to the young Bulgarian architect Nikola Lazarov in 1898. The reconstruction was completed in three years without interrupting services at the church. A new bell tower was built on the west side, and the existing three domes and roof were replaced with five new domes, including a large central one. The church’s walls were lined with brickwork, the terrace was strengthened, and broad staircases were built on the north, west, and south sides. A total of 136,000 gold leva was spent on the renovation. In 1915, Exarch Joseph I was buried on the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church’s south side, and in 1918, Metropolitan Parthenius of Sofia was buried on the north. In 1925, a communist terrorist act caused significant damage to the church, but it was restored again by architect N. Lazarov and was re-consecrated successfully in 1933. Over the years, various repairs and renovations have been made, including installing an automatic bell-ringing system in 2002. Sveta Nedelya Church is part of the Square of Tolerance. It is located near other religious buildings, such as a mosque, a Catholic cathedral, and an Orthodox church, showcasing Sofia’s tolerance and co-existence of different religions. Today it is a popular destination for both the faithful and tourists.