Immovable Cultural Heritage

Bishop Basilica of Philippopolis

The Bishop Basilica of Philippopolis (Bulgarian: Филипополска голяма базилика, Golyama bazilika na Filipopol) is a church from the late antique era in Plovdiv, built in the beginning of the 5th century AD. It is the largest early-Christian temple discovered in Bulgaria and one of the largest from that period on the Balkans.The basilica has three naves with an apse situated at the East end of the central nave. The southern and part of the central nave are revealed. The Great Basilica is one of the most interesting cultural heritage sites in Plovdiv. The great basilica is located in the central part of Plovdiv, near the 19th century Roman Catholic St Ludvig cathedral and Maria Luiza blvd. The Great basilica of Philippopolis was built in the beginning of the 5th century probably over an earlier building with a similar plan which covered the space for two insulae (quarters defined by four perpendicular streets). It was demolished and abandoned, probably in 577, when 100,000 Slavs stormed the Balkans. In the Middle Ages, local people used its remains as a source for ready-made building material. The dimensions of the basilica are extremely large for that period. The overall length of the basilica is 86.30 m and its width – 38.50 m. The naves are separated by 14 supporting posts: every two marble columns were followed by one masonry pillar. It has three naves with an apse situated at the East end of the central nave. There was an atrium surrounded by a colonnade on three sides to the West. The large size of the building, the rich decoration of mosaics and the specifics in the altar area organisation give reason to suppose that the building most probably was the Episcopal basilica. Only the South and part of the central nave are discovered and researched so far. The rest still lies under the nearby road connection Maria Luiza blvd. and Tsar Boris III Obedinitel blvd. In 2016 excavations works begun with the aim to discover the North nave of the basilica. The most interesting foundings at the Basilica are the mosaics that covered the floor. They spread across an area of 700 sq.m revealing extremely interesting motives, without analogue in Bulgarian lands. The floors were covered with intricate mosaics with geometrical designs; eternal knots symbols; vases springing the water of eternal life; and an astonishing array of birds, the early-Christian symbols of pious souls. There is a difference in the composition and motives of the mosaics in the Southern and central naves, suggesting that most probably they were made by different craftsmen.
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