All daily worship services are performed each day in the temple.
Starts at 5:00 PM.
Starts at 8:00 AM.
After the Matins. Begins around 9:00 AM.
Five layers of wall-paintings have been preserved in the “St. Georgi” Church: the first of them is the earliest (the most ancient one) is related to the 6th century when probably the Rotunda was inaugurated as a Christian temple and painted; the second layer – to the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 10th century, i.e. to the period of the First Bulgarian Kingdom; the third one - to the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century, when Bulgaria was under the Byzantine yoke; the fourth layer – to the end of 14th century – the last century of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom; the fifth layer - to the end of 16th century when the “St. George” Church was transformed into a mosque.
The remains of the antique layer are very slight – a little fragment in the north-west niche. Some remains of the fifth Turkish layer, ornaments with brick red color are preserved on the west wall over the window. These two layers – the first and the fifth ones – are only of documentary importance. The other three layers medieval art of painting are locate as follows: the third layer is located the highest, in the vault, next to the eight windows’ line, in the drum; the first layer is beneath it and under it is the second one. Beneath the lower part is without frescoes – for that reason it is supposed to have been lined with marble.
The first medieval layer of frescoes (10th c.) consists of two friezes – an upper and lower one. In the north part of the upper frieze fragments of six flying angels’ figures have been preserved, as well as the head of one angel. In the lower frieze, the space among the eight windows, sixteen prophets were painted. Only fragments of the figures of three prophets and the nimbus of the fourth prophet have been preserved out of them.
The second medieval layer of frescoes (11th – 12th c.) is of mixed composition. Some remains of the first frieze from the 10th c. are included in it (the figures of three prophets on the north wall and the nimbus of the fourth prophet). The other 12 prophets are related to the time of the second painting of the rotunda (11th – 12th c.). How had that happened? In the 12th century the walls of the rotunda were plastered again and covered by frescoes. Even earlier than the 14th century under the oval of the vault the fresco plaster next to the damaged places had evidently been damaged and later it began ripping off and revealing the original images of the three prophets. On the rest of the surface under the windows, the areas over the niches and in the upper part of the niches, some gospel scenes and the figures of the four evangelists are located.
The third medieval layer (14th c.) is located in the highest part of the rotunda – in its vault. Painted after the vault restoration, it consists of two parts: the central image of All-powerful Christ, surrounded by four flying angels and the figures of the four evangelists, and the frieze of twenty-two prophets, located beneath them.
The highest is the evaluation of the first layer of medieval frescoes, painted during the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The exclusively high level of these frescoes is brightly displayed by the remains of the frieze with the evangelists, and particularly one of them. Here great artistic virtues are demonstrated in combination with a thorough expressiveness and grandeur, typical for the early period of the East Christian (Byzantine) pictorial art.
The second layer of frescoes (11th – 12th c.), related to the time of the Byzantine rule in Bulgaria, also exhibits some characteristics of the grandeur of the East Christian pictorial art – in a much later form and of Byzantine origin. The static character predominates in it – the figures are with severe ascetic faces, showed in freezed static poses.
The third layer of frescoes (the end of the 14th c.) is made in the grandeur tradition of the old art of painting and by famous master-hands. Certainly, the scale of the images in height of this layer considerably – almost one metre - is reduced, compared with the images in the first and the second layers of frescoes, that reach approximately three meters. But, as compensation, the frescoes of the third layer are broken up by strong movements, luscious with the echo of the tragic for the Bulgarian people events of that time.
The inscriptions of the first and the second layer are in Greek, and of the third layer – in Old Bulgarian language.
Dear brothers and sisters, visitors of this ancient temple, let’s pray St. George intercede with our gentle God – Jesus Christ, this temple to survive till His second glorious Advent in order human souls can be saved in it. Amen.
“St. George” Rotunda Church is the oldest architectural monument in Sofia and the only building in good repair, intact to the roof, dated as far back as the Roman Empire. Its construction coincides with a moment of a remarkable flourishing of Serdika as one of the largest and most considerable Roman towns on the Balkan Peninsula.
Since the very beginning it has been a building of a cult, probably a martyrion (a religious building devoted to a saint martyr. This opinion dominated over the supposition on a Roman Baths because of the hypocaust, being too high (1-1,20 m), while a height of 70 – 80 cm was necessary for the baths. This hypocaust served for ventilation and drainage of the floor. There aren’t any vestiges of a fireplace (prefurnium), necessary for baths’ building). The construction of the Rotunda is dated as far back as the beginning of the 4th century, from the time of Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) who sojourned in Serdica many times. He has been credited with the phrase: “Serdica – that is my Rome”.
After the Edict of Milan in 313 that Emperor Constantine the Great promulgated Christianity as an allowed religion by, in the Roman Empire the Rotunda was transformed into a baptistery because of the mass conversion to Christianity.
In 6th century, during the rule of Emperor Justinian the Great (527-565) the Rotunda was transformed from a baptistery into a church. The first ancient painting dates back from that time. Since the same time the church is supposed to have been bearing the name of St. Great Martyr Georgi, suffered in Asia Minor during the 3rd century, at the time of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). One of the religious councils, the one in Serdica (343 Serdica’s Councel), is connected with the church. A lot of bishops of the then East and West Christian world attended this Council. The Council confirmed the Nicaea symbol of faith, exculpated St. Athanasius of Alexandria and expelled the adherents to the Aryan heresy. The vault of the Rotunda has been destroyed twice. The fundamental assumptions were, as follows: an earthquake, because of the seismic region Sofia is located in, erosion or the military inroads of the Westgoths in the end of the 4th c. and of the Huns in the 5th c. when the architectural ensemble was heavily impaired, as well as in the 9th c. – during the siege of Krum.
The Rotunda as an operative temple is mentioned by Vladislav Grammatik in his story about the relocation of the relics of St. Ioan Rilski from Turnovo to the Rila Monastery in the summer of 1469. In the Rotunda the Saint’s relics had been lying in state for a period of six days. During that time the church was also the Metropolitan cathedral where the relics of St. Kral Stefan Milutin were also preserved.
In the biography of St. Pimen Zografski (XVI c.) the Rotunda is also mentioned – St. Pimen has been studying icon-painting in it for six years. Soon after that, during the rule of Sultan Salim I (1512-1520) the Rotunda was transformed into a mosque, called Gyul-djamasy. The wall-paintings were erased by white plaster and floral motives were painted on the walls.
After the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule (1396-1878) the Rotunda was abandoned and neglected. Not until the death of Alexander Battenberg was it modified for a temporary mausoleum where his remains were left till their removal to the mausoleum, specially constructed for him in 1898.
In 1915 the Rotunda was cleaned out of everything it was provided with during its transformation into a mosque – the minaret was destroyed, the interior plaster was cleaned and the medieval paintings, comprising three layers, were uncovered.
After the restoration of “St. Georgi” Rotunda weekday divine service has been resumed and besides as a monument of the Christian art, evidencing the eternity of Christ’s Church, the Rotunda has been performing its most important function that it was constructed in 1600 for – to attend people along their way to God.
Everyday orthodox liturgy is held in the temple in the ancient liturgical language of the orthodox Slavs - Church-Slavonic, and the chants are performed by the characteristic for the ancient Orthodox Church East ecclesiastical singing, also known as Byzantine music.
“St. George” Rotunda Church is the most ancient Christian temple in Sofia, located in the city centre. Constructed during the 4th century by Romans, this building is a large architectural complex of a cult that during the Middle Ages (9th – 14th c.) many times has been subjected to reconstructions connected predominantly with its central part – the rotunda. In antique Serdika and medieval Sredets (ancient names of Sofia) it was a Christian temple, devoted to St. Georgi, and in the 16th century it was transformed in a mosque by Turks. Although this temple has been stricken by time and as a result of negligence in the past, it has survived till nowadays and evokes well-deserved interest as a model of the ancient construction and Christian fine art.
The building is developed from the West to the East.
1. On the West it begins by a large entrance narthex ending to the North and to the South by semicircular abcides.
2. From the West to the East a cruciform vestibule follows. Four heavily built pilasters, constructed in the four corners of the inner almost square area, give a hint of a semi-cylindrical vaulted covering.
3. The third premise is a three-section entrance-hall connecting with a large spherical building – the rotunda.
4. The fourth part of the construction is the very “St. Georgi” Rotunda. Both side premises connected with it by vaulted entrances to the East end by abcides. This way, together with the Rotunda, they form a typical church with a nave and two aisles. In connection with the scenes of the New Testament, depicted over the entrances, the investigators conclude that the North nave has been a chapel devoted to the Suffering of Christ, and the South one – to the Assumption.
The Rotunda is a cylindrical domed building, constructed on a square base. The upper part is formed as a cylindrical body, pierced by eight cylindrical windows. It is approximately 9.50 m wide (in diametre) and approximately 14 m high. In the overall architectural composition the Rotunda has been the highest and most imposing monumental dominant. The interior space is realized by simplicity and stoutness of forms and volumes. The square altar premise, the four symmetrically located niches, the main entrance in the west wall and the several protracted windows enhance the impression of space stoutness.
The semi-circular niches are formed diagonally and symmetrically. The east niches are larger than the west ones, but the latter are higher. The east niches’ form overtops the semicircle and is horseshoe-shaped. A semicircle pool with a radius of 1,40 m is built in each of them. The bottom of the little pool is 50 cm lower than the floor and its upper part is 50 cm higher than the floor. The floor of the Rotunda has been built on posts, forming the so-called hypocaust.
The hypocaust system consists of little rectangular posts, constructed by almost square bricks (size: 20 x 30 cm) and 1.35 m deep beneath the floor base, stepping directly on the ground and set at a distance of 0.5 to 1 m; they were connected at the upper side and formed parallel arcades. The hypocaust is a ventilation system, constructed because of the intense subsoil dampness.
Църквата Ротонда - “Св. Георги” е най-старият архитектурен паметник в София и единствената запазена до покрив постройка в града датираща от римската империя. Появата ú съвпада с момент на голям разцвет на Сердика, като един от най-големите и значителни римски градове на Балканския полуостров.
От самото начало сградата е била култова, вероятно мартирион. Появата на Ротондата датира от началото на IV век от времето на император Константин Велики (306-337 г.), който многократно е пребивавал в Сердика. На него преписват фразата “Сердика – моят Рим”.
След Миланския едикт (313 г.), с който имп. Константин Велики обявява християнство за разрешена религия в Римската империя, Ротондата е била превърната в баптистерий поради масовите християнски покръствания.
През VI в. при управлението на имп. Юстиниан Велики (527-565 г.) Ротондата от баптистерий е била превърната в църква. От тогава датира и първата антична живопис. От същото време се предполага, че църквата носи името на св. великомъченик Георги пострадал в Мала Азия през III век при имп. Диоклетиан (284-305 г.). По това време подвигът на светеца мъченик бил доста пресен. С Ротондата е свързан един от църковните събори – Сердикийският (343 г.). В този събор взели участие множество епископи от тогавашния източен и западен християнски свят. Съборът потвърдил Никейския символ на вярата, оправдал св. Атанасий Александрийски и низвергнал последователите на арианската ерес.
Куполът на Ротондата е бил разрушаван два пъти. Основни предположения за това са: земетресение поради сеизмичния район, в който се намира София, ерозия или военните нашествия на весготите в края на IV в. и хуните през V век, когато архитектурния ансамбъл силно пострадал, както и през IX век - при обсадата на хан Крум.
За Ротондата като действащ храм се споменава от Владислав Граматик в разказа му за пренасяне на мощите на Св. Иоан Рилски от Търново в Рилския манастир през лятото на 1469 г. В Ротондата мощите на светеца били изложени на поклонение в продължение на шест дена. По това време църквата е била и митрополитска катедрала, в която се намирали мощите и на св. крал Стефан Милутин.
В житието на св. Пимен Зографски (XVI в.) също се споменава за Ротондата, в която св. Пимен се е учил на иконопис шест години. Явно скоро след това при султан Салим I (1512-1520 г.) Ротондата е превърната в джамия наречена Гюл-джамаси. Стенописите били заличени с бяла мазилка и били изписани с растителни мотиви.
След Освобождението на България от османско владичество (1396-1878 г.) Ротондата била изоставена и занемарена. Едва при смъртта на Александър Батенберг тя била пригодена за временен мавзолей, в който били поставени тленните му останки докато бъдат пренесени в специално построения за него мавзолей през 1898 г.
През 1915 г. Ротондата била изчистена от всичко, прибавено в нея при превръщането ú в джамия, било съборено минарето, вътрешната мазилка била изчистена и се открила средновековната живопис състояща се от три пласта.
След реставрирането на храма отново е възстановено делничното богослужение и освен като паметник на християнското изкуство свидетелствуващ за непреходността на Църквата Христова Ротондата пак изпълнява своята най-важна функция, за която и била построена преди 1600 години – да привежда хората към Бога.
Днес в храма се извършва ежедневно православно богослужение, извършвано на древния литургически език на православните славяни – църковнославянски, като песнопенията се изпълняват на характерното за древната православна църква – източно църковно пеене, известно и като византийска музика.