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Nativity Memorial Church, Shipka, Bulgaria

Nativity Memorial Church, also called Shipka Monastery or Shipka Memorial Church, is the first monument in Bulgaria dedicated to the Bulgarian-Russian friendship. The monument is located on the south side of the Shipka pass.

Construction began in 1885 by design of architect A. Tomishko. The idea of the temple belongs to Olga Nikolaevna Skobeleva, the mother of the famous general M. Skobelev and the wife of general D.Skobelev. The idea of erecting a temple gathered together all the people around. Military and civilian organizations, independent contributors and numerous citizens of Russia and Bulgaria raised fund for realizing the project.

Construction committee was headed by Count Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatyev. Since the will of the donors was to create a memorial temple for praying Warriors liberators, the temple, as the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, was named "Memorial Church".

Memorial Church includes the monastery housing, a hotel for pilgrims, shelters, and the seminary. This is a cross-dome temple, with a square naos (nave) and three apses. Façade design used the motifs of Yaroslavl school of church architecture of the XVII century. Construction of the church ended in 1902. The official opening ceremony took place on September 27, 1902. Count Ignatiev gave a solemn speech in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Shipka events.

The internal decoration of the temple dedicated to the military theme. There are 34 marble slabs on the walls with the names of the military units which participated in the battles for Shipka. Also on the tiles you can see the names of Russian soldiers and officers, and also Bulgarians names from volunteer corps who died in Shipka battle and the battles for the towns Kazanlak and Stara-Zagora. The heroes’ remains lie in the crypt of the church.

The largest bell weighs 11,643 kg. It is a gift of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II. All the bells were cast in Russia and on their production Military Ministry of the Russian Empire has allocated nearly 30 tons of shot cartridge cases.

Among all the monuments dedicated to Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, this temple is the most impressive and fascinating.

By Lilit Vanesyan,


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