The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a cross-domed basilica featuring an emphasized central dome. The cathedral’s gold-plated dome is 45 m high (148 ft), with the bell tower reaching 53 metres (174 ft). The temple has 12 bells with total weight of 23 tons, the heaviest weighing 12 tons and the lightest 10 kilograms (22 lb). The interior is decorated with Italian marble in various colours, Brazilian onyx, alabaster, and other luxurious materials. The central dome has the Lord’s Prayer inscribed around it, with thin gold letters.
Design and construction
The construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral started in 1882 (having been planned since 19 February, 1879), when the foundation stone was laid, but most of it was built between 1904 and 1912. Saint Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince. The cathedral was created in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule. The cathedral was designed by Alexander Pomerantsev, aided by Alexander Smirnov and Alexander Yakovlev, as the initial 1884-1885 project of Ivan Bogomolov was radically changed by Pomerantsev. The final design was finished in 1898, and the construction and decoration were done by a team of Bulgarian, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and other European artists, architects and workers, including the aforementioned architects, as well as Petko Momchilov, Yordan Milanov, Haralampi Tachev, Ivan Mrkvička, Vasily Bolotnov, Nikolay Bruni, Alexander Kiselyov, Anton Mitov and many others. The marble parts and the lighting fixtures were created in Munich, the metal elements for the gates in Berlin, while the gates themselves were manufactured in Karl Bamberg’s factory in Vienna, and the mosaics were shipped from Venice.
The cathedral is adjacent to St. Sofia Church, the church for which the city of Sofia is named. Other notable landmarks in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral are the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the National Gallery of Foreign Art, the National Art Academy, the Bulgarian Parliament, a park honoring Ivan Vazov with his monument and gravestone, the Sofia Opera and Ballet, and a park where one can buy handmade textiles, icons, and antiques in a small flea market.
Museum and market
There is a museum of Bulgarian icons inside the cathedral crypt, part of the National Art Gallery. The church claims that the museum contains the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe.
To the left of the altar is a case displaying relics of Alexander Nevsky, given by the Russian Orthodox Church. Although the accompanying Bulgarian-language plaque refers simply to “relics” (мощи), the item on display appears to be a piece of a rib.