This is one of the most remarkable architectural landmarks you could see in the center of Sofia. Apparently, it is and old building, but it still looks impressive and attractive. More than 130 years ago almost at the same place there used to be a building that served as shelter for travelers and merchants on their way to and from Istanbul. Nowadays, we could also say that it is a stop for people on their road to education, enlightenment, and development. This fascinating building is the home of the oldest Bulgarian high school – the Sofia University “St.Kliment Ohridski”.
The establishment of a high school was a need after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman invasion in the end of 19th century. Both the state and the citizens believed that the prosperity of the society goes through education and science. In 1888 the Ministry of Education legalized the existence of the high school. Two Bulgarian brothers – wealthy merchants and entrepreneurs – made it possible by donating money and land for the university. Today you could see their monuments in front of the building.
So, in the end of 1888 we had the first Bulgarian high school with one faculty and 43 students (only men). An interesting fact is that the first rector of the university was only 29 years old! This is far from the modern understanding about experienced and dignified people of science that usually head institutions of this kind.
More than a century later the school consists of 16 faculties educating more than 20,000 students. Not all of them could be seen around the main building because only few of the faculties operate there. In regard to the architecture of the building, it is worth mentioning the university library. It is made similar with the library of the British Museum in London.
For a short period of time in 1907 the university was shut by Knyaz Ferdinand (the Bulgarian Prince at this time). This was his response to the university students who dared to razz him during the grand opening of the National Theatre “Ivan Vazov” in Sofia. Moreover, he fired all the professors that were teaching at the school. However, everything was restored during the following few months.
Who is St.Kliment Ohridski?
It is not an easy job to describe briefly who he was and how he contributed to the Bulgarian literature and education in the 9th and the 10th century. He was one of the students of Cyril and Methodius – the two brothers that laid down the basis for the creation of the Slavic alphabet (the one that we use nowadays). Kliment Ohridski wrote many works and established the Ohrid Literary School. He supported and encouraged the process of enlightenment and education within and around the borders of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. Obviously, what he did was enough to make him a patron of the first and most famous Bulgarian high school.
I remember dreaming about becoming a student in the Sofia University just to get inside, see the halls, the library, the architecture. Fortunately, you don’t need to be among the thousands Bulgarian and foreign students in order to access the building. You can do it for free all the time. And from inside, the building is even more impressive and intriguing.
How to get to the Sofia University?
The main building of university has a great location in the city center in proximity to many other landmarks of all kinds. The easiest way to get there is to follow Line 1 of the Sofia subway (the red line). There is a station named after the university.