Occult buildings, not only in Bulgaria, but also around the world, are always built on energy infused soil. Thus, in the same places, but over many centuries, different religions worshipped, prayed, and sought help from their own gods and ancestors. This is why new religious sites are built upon the ruins of ancient sanctuaries. The deities may change, but the reverence remains. Usually, most peoples would destroy the sacred territories and objects of their ancestors in order to build their own civilization. Rarely, there are places where one can see a blend of cultures that resided in the area.
One of these special places, unique both to Bulgaria and the world, is the Museum of Religions in Stara Zagora.
The old mosque, home of the Museum of Religions, is the only building, which survived the burning of the city during the Russo-Turkish War which resulted in the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire in 1878. Even more interesting is the fact that the foundations of a medieval Christian church from 10th century AD and a Thracian sanctuary from the Roman era, 2nd-3rd century AD are preserved inside the mosque. The ruins were saved from destruction when the mosque was completed in 1408, although this was against the canons of Islam. The mosque in Stara Zagora was a marvel for its time because of its huge dome, supported only by its walls and without columns.
The structure of the mosque is awe-inspiring; there are no columns supporting the huge dome. It is the second largest mosque of this type in the world. Particularly interesting are the baroque frescoes on the walls of the mosque, which are assumed to date between 1859-1860.
The architecture of the Muslim temple “Eski Mosque” or “the old mosque” in Turkish, has been conserved since 1927 when the religious building was recognized for its cultural importance and uniqueness. A few decades later, in 1968, the mosque was declared a national architectural and construction monument of culture from the Antiquity to the Middle Ages period. The class of murals that adorn today’s museum was recognized in 1972, when it was declared a fine art monument of national importance. The church within the mosque was declared a separate cultural monument in 2003.
A Christian painted a church in a Muslim temple
The mosque’s frescoes hid secrets that were only discovered during their restoration, which preceded the conversion of the old Muslim temple into a museum. It turns out the beautiful brightly colored ornaments were painted by a Christian. The artist, whose identity remains undiscovered, hid landscapes, human figures, and a small church with a cross in the intricacies of the fresco.
To enjoy the frescoes and try to discover their secrets yourself, you need to buy a ticket. The entrance fee for the museum is BGN 4 for adults, and BGN 2 for children over the age of 7, school and university students. For group visits of more than 10 people, there is a 25% discount, which brings the entrance fee per person to BGN 3. Children under the age of 7 and visitors with disabilities enter the museum for free.
The museum’s opening hours are from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 am to 6 pm. The sale of tickets is suspended half an hour before closing time. The museum is closed during the winter months and on Sundays from October 1 to March 31.
This content has been prepared as part of a project of the Ministry of Tourism.