An interesting historical fact connects the symbol of Sofia and Paris. The French capital hosted the Exposition Universelle – the World Fair – in 1900. As Bulgaria was also represented at the fair, Sofia needed to have its Coat of Arms that was to be shown next to the ones of other cities. Since Sofia was a new capital it was of great importance for the city to have a good image and to be popularized. That’s why the creation of the Coat of Arms of Sofia was assigned to Haralampi Tachev – one of the most talented students of the head of the National Academy of Arts at the time Ivan Mrkvička.
For the main four fields of the Coat of Arms Tachev decided to choose images that were somehow connected to either the historical heritage of the city or its surroundings.
Since Sofia was much smaller in 1900, it seemed appropriate for the image of the fortress to only have three towers. In heraldry traditions, cities with over 100,000 inhabitants should have five towers. However, the Coat of Arms was never changed in that respect. On the left and right side two laurel twigs symbolize victory. At the bottom of Sofia`s Coats of Arms one can read the motto of the capital – „Growing, but not aging“. The original version would translate to only „Grows, does not age“ but it was changed as in Bulgarian it only contained 13 letters and that was seen as a bad sign.
After Bulgaria became a socialist republic in 1944 the Coat of Arms stayed the same for a while but in 1973 it also had to be synchronized with the state ideology. The resemblance of the fortress on the top to a crown was to be avoided as Bulgaria was no longer a monarchy. A red star also appeared in the walls of the fort and the colours were changed so that only red, blue and black were left. Under the four fields of the whole image there was an inscription reading “Socialist Sofia”.
It can now be seen on some of the most central buildings that are somehow connected to the history of Sofia like the Central Covered Market or the first tramway depot. It’s also presented to the honorary citizens of Sofia.
To learn more about the significance of the Coat of Arms and its symbolism, you are welcome to join our tour!
Author: Simona Donkova