The Church of St Petka of the Saddlers a.k.a. “St. Petka Samardzhiyska” Church is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church in Sofia. It is a small one-naved building partially dug into the ground located in the very centre of the city.The church is located in the underpass between The Central Department Store (TZUM) and the Sheraton hotel, almost at the entrance of the Serdika metro station.
The church of St. Petka of the Saddlers was built under the Ottoman occupation with donations from the region’s master saddlers. At that time, the building of churches was tolerated if their height does not exceed that of a soldier on horseback. This explains why it was half burried under the ground level. St. Petka church features a semi-cylindrical vault, a hemispherical apse, superb traces of frescoes and a crypt discovered during excavations after the Second World War. The walls are 1 m thick and made from brick and stone.
The church was first mentioned in the 16th century and was constructed at the place of a former Roman religious building. It is today a monument of culture known for its mural paintings from the 14th, 15th, 17th and 19th century depicting biblical scenes.
The church is dedicated to Martyr Petka Ikoniyska, an 11th century Bulgarian saint. The Church of Saint Petka acquired its present name due to it being a patron of the saddlers in the Middle Ages, who performed their rituals in the church. Also the bulgarian name St Petka Samardzhiyska comes from the bulgarian word “samar” which means packsaddle
There is a hypothesis, that the great bulgarian revolutionary Vasil Levski (1837 – 1873) killed by the turks was re-buried in the temple. This hypothesis has not yet been confirmed, but to the present day many people believe that the remains of the great Bulgarian are laid there.
The church was declared a cultural monument and it is still operational. Its memorial day is celebrated on 28 October – the day of St. Petka.