Hidden away in a courtyard of the Presidency and the dainty Sheraton Hotel, amid remains of the ancient town of Serdica, rises the famous Roman Rotunda, a red-brick building transformed into the present day St. George Church. The Roman Rotunda /the church “St. George”/ is the oldest preserved structure which still serves its original purpose in the Sofia city.
It was built in the 4th century by the Romans according to a fairly complex plan: a vast, circular central chamber, surmounted by a dome and surrounded by four semi-circular apses.
Ther temple has been significantly changed since then.First it was destroyed by the Huns, rebuilt as church, then turned into a mosque by the Ottomans. The Roman Rotunda has been recently restored, it worth seeing due to its simple, but still exquisite architecture, remarkable remnants of frescoes and the entire complex of ruins behind the altar.
The St. George curch stands several meters under the contemporary ground level. The temple is a part of an entire architectural complex of archaeological monuments, consisting of the base remains from a large basilica, on the floor of which there are evidences for a special heating system – the so called hypocaust, as well as the stone pavement of one of the main streets in ancient Serdica, supplied with skillfully constructed drainage. This archeological complex of the church and the above mentioned remains was on the territory of the Constantine’s quarter in the antique city. The residence of Emperor Constantine I the Great itself was found under the neighboring Hotel Rila.
To the east lie excavated foundations of the Roman settlement of Serdica. Nowadays the church is a museum protectied by UNESCO. Today St. George church is the oldest Eastern European Orthodox church, as well as it is the second oldest building in the entire city with really dramatic history.