• ”St. Alexander Nevsky” Cathedral

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Patriarchal Cathedral St. Alexander Nevsky, Sofia, 1882-1912

The foundations of the cathedral “St. Alexander Nevsky” were laid on February 19, 1882, and the building was officially consecrated in 1924. The monumental church’s design was based on a project by Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsev (1848-1918) and was implemented in collaboration with two other Russian architects Alexander Smirnov and Alexander Yakovlev. The church is a five-aisle cross-domed basilica dominated by a main gold-plated dome. Its interior has three parts: a narthex (with two chapels), a central nave, and an altar (with three thrones). The nave has two enclosed side galleries and has a crypt underneath it.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1904 when Alexander Pomerantsev signed the official commission agreement. A large part of the temple’s decoration was carried out by Bulgarian artists, among which were Ivan Markvichka, Stefan Ivanov, Gospodin Zheliazkov, Petko Klisurov, Nikola Petrov, Hristo Berberov, August Rozenthal, Assen Belkovskim, Nikola Marinov, and Vassil Dimov. Under the coordination of Professor Anton Mitov, Bulgarian artists were commissioned with the two side iconostases. Four Russian artists painted the icons on the central iconostasеs – Viktor Vasnetsov, Nikolai Bruni, Vassily Savinsky and Sergey Shelkovoi – while the Bulgarian artists Ivan Markvichka and Anton Mitov worked on the northern and southern ones.

Mosaics in ”St. Alexander Nevsky” Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Anton Chalakov/BHF, 2022

”St. Alexander Nevsky” Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria.

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The smalt mosaic St. Alexander Nevsky by Anton Mitov, 1912

The mosaic icon of “St. Alexander Nevsky”, patron saint of the church, is located on the western façade under the bell tower. Delicate stone ornaments frame the icon. The artist used rich expressive colors and imparted a certain “softness” to the figure. True to his style, Anton Mitov thereby accentuated the saint’s humanity. His image appears well-proportioned, colorful, and benevolent. Instead of having a severe and ascetic countenance, he comes across as regal and stately.

Anton Mitov

Anton Mitov (1862-1930)
Photo; family archive

Anton Mitov was born in 1862 in Stara Zagora. In 1885, he graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, where he studied under the direction of Giuseppe Ciaranfi. He later returned to Bulgaria and worked as a teacher in Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, and Varna. He participated in the First Exhibition of the Union for sustaining Bulgarian art in 1894, and from the following year until 1899, he was the founder and editor of the magazine “Izkuvstvo.” Together with Ivan Mrkvička, in 1896 he founded The State School of Drawing, now the National Academy of Arts, where he taught Art History and Perspective. He painted icons for churches in Sofia, Pleven, and Stara Zagora between 1900 and 1912 and during this time participated in important world exhibitions and forums through which he popularized Bulgarian artistic heritage. From 1903 to 1904, he completed the frescoes on the ceiling of the ceremonial hall of the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank in Sofia, created costumes for the play “Towards the Abyss” by Ivan Vazov, and worked on a project for the order “Saints Cyril and Methodius.” In 1910, he painted a large part of the altar icons in the church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker in Stara Zagora and was involved in organizational matters related to the memorial St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Mitov worked on the decoration of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia in 1912 and then until 1918 was the director of the School of Fine and Applied Arts. He was director of the Academy* from 1924 to 1927. Prof. Anton Mitov wrote over 300 publications and tirelessly gave numerous lectures and talks throughout the country, popularizing the history of art and documenting a series of events in Bulgarian art life. Anton Mitov died in Sofia in 1930.

Mosaics in the dome above the Tsar’s throne

Mosaics from the narthex and altar

Mosaics in the main entrance and vestibule

Exterior Mosaics above the entrances