St. George Rotunda

St. George Rotunda (32 Kniaz Dondukov Blvd., Sofia) — Hidden away in a courtyard of the Presidency and the dainty Sheraton Hotel, amid remains of the ancient town of Serdica, rises the famous Roman Rotunda, a red-brick building transformed into the present day St. George Church. The Roman Rotunda (St. George Church) is the oldest preserved structure (originally built in the 4th century AD).  Originally the building was used for public purposes. After the recognition of Christianity as a religion in the Roman Empire, the rotunda became a baptistery (a building for conversion to Christianity), due to the many conversions, following the authorization of this religion.  At the time of Emperor Justinian the Great (reigned 527 – 565) the Rotunda was transformed into a church. The first wall painting was made in the same period.

During the Ottoman rule and the reign of sultan Selim the 1st (reigned 1512 – 1520) the Rotunda St George was transformed into a mosque, named Gyul Dzhamasi. The Christian paintings on the walls were obliterated with white plaster and in their place were painted floral motifs.  After the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 the Rotunda was deserted, and after the death of Prince Alexander Battenberg (reigned 1879 – 1886) it was transformed into a mausoleum.  Its restoration began in 1915. Nowadays the temple is operational and performs daily worships in the Eastern church singing, also known as Byzantine music.  Hours:  8:00 am – 6:00 pm (daily).