Shipka Memorial church is situated at the foot of the Stara Planina at the south entrance to the Shipka Pass between Kazanlak and Gabrovo. It is the most impressive, fascinating and beautiful monument dedicated to the Russian – Turkish war of 1877-1878.
Shipka Memorial Church
The Shipka memorial Church also known as Рождество Христово (Nativity of Christ) was completed in 1902 after 17 years of construction and was officially consecrated on September 28th to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ‘Battle of the Shipka Pass’ in which thousands of Bulgarian, Russian and Ukranian soldiers died fighting for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire.
The funding for the construction of Shipka memorial church, which is also a functioning monastery, was raised from donors mostly in Russia, but also in Bulgaria with the organisation of Olga Skobeleva, mother of the Russian General Skobelev.
The land was given by the people of Shipka and the work was carried out by a combination of Russian, Italian and Bulgarian Stone cutters and master builders and architects.
The design of the church is heavily influenced by Russian Moscow Baroque architecture and has five beautiful onion shaped golden domes which can be seen glistening in the sun above the surrounding tree tops
from many miles around.
The bell tower of Shipka memorial church reaches a height of 53 m and its 17 bells, the heaviest of which weighs nearly 12,000 kilograms, was a gift from the Russian Emperor Nicholas II.
The military ministry of the Russian empire allowed over 30 tons of spent cartridges that were collected from the battlegrounds for the casting of the bells, which was done in Russia.
Shipka memorial church interior
Inside the temple itself and attached to the sanctuary walls and in the outer galleries are 34 marble plaques. They list the names of officers and volunteers who died during the Russian-Turkish war of 1887-88. The war’s most brutal battles which were fought only a few miles from the village of Shipka.
The remains of 18,941 soldiers who perished are laid in 17 stone sarcophagi in the church’s crypt.
The monastery was Russian Orthodox until 1934, when the Soviet government transferred ownership to Bulgaria. Today the Shipka Memorial church is part of the Shipka-Buzludzha park and museum complex.
The monastery church was declared an architectural and cultural landmark in 1970 and celebrates its annual festival on 25th December. ‘The Nativity of Christ’