The church’s onion-shaped golden domes and elaborate Russian Revival exterior make it look as if it came straight out of a Moscow post card.
THE HISTORY BEHIND THE RUSSIAN CHURCH IN SOFIA
A reminder of the close historical ties between Bulgaria and Russia, the church stands on a boulevard named after Alexander II of Russia, a block away from the monument to the same king and next to what was once the Russian embassy, which the church was built to serve.
According to convention, the embassy temple was named after St Niolas, the patron saint of the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the monarch occupying the Russian throne at the time of the church's construction in 1914.
Today, it is commonly known as simply “the Russian church”.
Ironically, the site is also a reminder of the historical ties to another empire – the Ottoman: Where the Russian church stands today there once stood a mosque.
The street in front, named after the Russian king that liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman control, was once called "Istanbul". It is, in fact, exactly where the road will lead you today if you follow it for some 600 km to the east.
For many years, the building and the souls of the believers were in the care of the quiet, insightful and much-loved Russian Archbishop Seraphim.
As the legend goes, on his death bed in 1950, Seraphim encouraged believers to write to him even after his death, as he vowed to continue working for the well-being of his “children” from beyond the grave.
It is unlikely that he meant this literally. However, after he was buried in the crypt of the church, people started to flock there with paper and pen in hand.
Despite the Communist regime open aversion to all things religious, the wish-granting reputation of the good “grandpa bishop” has been growing ever since.
Today, the crypt is equipped with tables and chairs, pens and paper and the letters go in a large wooden “mail box.”
If visiting the crypt, bear in mind that most of the people there are stricken by grief and misfortune, so please remain quiet and respectful. Also, there are no reports claiming that the archbishop cannot read foreign languages, so do pick up paper and pen!