I was at Sofia, a very beautiful and ancient city in Balkans and capital of Bulgaria. I was very keen on exploring the city and what better way than taking a walking tour! During the tour the guide spoke about the rich culture and history of Bulgaria and importance Sofia has as a city since ancient times. He showed us the churches, remains of buildings from Roman times, important building from such as parliament and president’s office. Midway through I came across a beautiful statue made from bronze and copper. It was of St. Sofia, the saint after who the city took its name. Interestingly, the statue stands exactly where statue of Lenin stood during the iron curtain days.
The story of St. Sofia is quite tragic. St. Sofia and her 3 daughters were devout Christians and during those days christianity was not allowed in the Kingdom of Rome. When the king learnt about it, he ordered execution of the three daughters. In pain of such a loss, Sofia too died in a few days.
Sofia actually never lived in the city nor in Bulgaria but given that the city had taken its name from her, authorities there decided to put her statue in the spot left blank by removal of Lenin’s. A famous Bulgarian sculpture, Georgi Chapkanov, was commissioned to make the statue and he came up with this in year 2000:
General public and historians were furious after seeing this! Why? Many reasons but here are the top 3:
- The statue seemed too erotic for a saint
St. Sofia was a devout Christian and didn’t believe in Roman beliefs. Her daughters were executed by the Romans and this is all the more reason to believe she would have abhorred Roman system and beliefs. But her statue holds an owl and a dagger, something that Roman philosophy has meaning for however Christianity has none!
The statue wears a crown, which symbolises royalty but not a saint. Bulgarian people have seen ill effects of having the so called noble men and royals. At this time, they wanted to settle for democracy and a crown was not in good taste
I believe the authorities failed to democratically. The statue was meant to make people proud but they ended up creating something that the locals prefer not to speak about. And this happened because authorities took undemocratic way to achieve their objective. They should have built a prototype and taken public opinion.Given the emotional investments, public would have quickly given their reaction and the artist could have reimagined the statue.Nevertheless the status looks great I feel.
To be fair to the sculpture, I think we should leave artists to their imagination and their ideas should not be hostage to history. But this statue had a purpose. It afterall was coming at the place where Lenin’s stood for decades! The same statue at any other place wouldn’t have attracted such emotions but this place and time was special.
Like the Eiffel tower was initially rejected by Parisians and later embraced, I hope the people of Sofia too eventually embrace the statue.