Other Religious Temples in Bulgaria
Banya Bashi Mosque, located in the centre of Sofia, Dzhumaya Mosque in Plovdiv, and Tombul Mosque in the town of Shumen, 90 km west of Varna, are three of the most important Muslim temples in Bulgaria. Banya Bashi Mosque lies in the centre of the capital city and is the only operating mosque on its territory. It was built in the 16th century by Mimar Sinan, the most eminent architect in the history of the Ottoman Empire, and it can accommodate up to 1200 people on big Muslim holidays. The mosque lies in close proximity to the marble building of the Central Mineral Baths, the Synagogue and the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph. Dzhumaya Mosque in the centre of Plovdiv is the oldest operating Muslim temple in the country. According to the legend, it was constructed some time during the reign of Sultan Murad I (1361-1389) on the site of the old Christian church of St. Paraskevi. The sundial at the southwestern end of the façade is the most interesting ornament used for the mosque’s exterior decoration. Shumen’s Sherif Halil Pasha Mosque, also known as Tombul Mosque, was built in 1744 and happens to be the biggest and most significant Muslim temple on the territory of Bulgaria and the second largest on the Balkan Peninsula, preceded only by Selimiye Mosque in Edrine, Turkey. The design of the temple was influenced by the tulip oriental architectural style that developed at the beginning of the 18th century. It is characterised by the inclusion of elements from the French Baroque.
The Central Synagogue of Sofia:
Generally speaking, this is the third biggest synagogue in Europe and the largest Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) one. It was completed in 1909 after the design of Friedrich Grunanger, the royal court architect. Experts often label the building a masterpiece of architecture and a brilliant blend of Moresque and Byzantine styles. Apart from the prayer hall, the Synagogue also houses the offices of the Central Jewish Religious Council and the Jewish Museum of History. There the more curious visitors can hear lectures on the Holocaust and the story of how Bulgarians managed to save the lives of 50 000 Jews during the Second World War.
The Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph:
The turbulent history of this church started in 1875. Over the years it suffered a great deal of tragedies, including its own demolition on 30 March 1944 when the bombs of the Allied Forces reduced it to rubble. Its reconstruction only began in 2002 with Pope John Paul II’s laying the foundation stone. The new cathedral opened doors on 21 May 2006 and today it is the largest Catholic temple in Bulgaria. Together with Banya Bashi Mosque, St. Nedelya Orthodox Church and the Synagogue it forms a unique religious crossroads in the centre of Sofia where four different cultures meet to create the perfect whole. Well, isn’t this what the Kingdom of Heaven was supposed to be?