Bishop's Basilica and Late-Antique Mosaics of Philippopolis
Bishop's Basilica and Late-Antique Mosaics of Philippopolis, Roman Province of Thrace is part of the Tentative list of Bulgaria in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Bishop's Basilica and Late-Antique Mosaics of Philippopolis comprise three former Roman structures in Plovdiv. The Bishop's Basilica, Small Basilica and Irene Building were built and functioned during the 4th-6th centuries in the strategically located Roman city of Philippopolis. All three have well-preserved mosaic floors.
Map of Bishop's Basilica and Late-Antique Mosaics of PhilippopolisLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
This TWHS is made of three different components, more precisely three mosaics which were covering the floor of three different buildings: two churches (basilicas) and a house. While nothing is left from the buildings, these mosaics are still showing great artistic value. All were designed at the end of the Roman period, when the Empire had already adopted Christian faith.
Our visit started at the so called “Small Basilica”. Mosaics at this place were discovered at the end of 20th century, but only recently a modern building was set to protect them and allow visits (2013). Although the building is modern (and bright red), its external shape was designed as the basilica may have looked like. Inside, glass floors, walkways and an overlooking platform allow a close look at the different parts of the mosaic. Most famous ones are located around the small baptistery, added around 100 years after the basilica was built: they show doves, symbol of Holy Spirit, and stags, symbol of Christ for the early Christians. Small basilica is open daily, and although easily reachable by foot from the city centre and main attractions of Plovdiv, it is just off the beaten tracks. This may explain why we were the only visitors in that week day of August.
Few hundred meters further, we stopped at the site of the “Great Basilica”, which is supposed to be the main component of this TWHS. This place is still under archaeological investigation. Parts of the mosaics were known for years, but only recently the complete surface of the Basilica is being cared, after removal of some stretch of road which were overlapping part of the remains. The best place I think is to stand in front of the St Louis church. From there, you can easily realise how huge was this monument, and spot some pieces of the mosaics. Most of the mosaic however is covered by bag, earth, etc for preservation reasons, as the complete area is still an open air field. According to displays on the fences around the site, it will be managed in the same way as the Small Basilica: a building will cover the whole area and it will become a museum as well. The question is: when will this be achieved? On the city map of Plovdiv I was given at the tourist information centre, a small note indicates “opening in 2017”. One year later, a lot is still to be done, and I would say one or two more years are still needed to complete this work. Anyway, we were happy to see archaeologists at work, although we could only see parts of the whole mosaic.
Finally we visited the third component of this TWHS: another mosaic, same period, but from a house. It was found when works were performed under the main road that goes through Plovdiv old town hill. A small, privately owned museum (named “Trakart”) was set in the pedestrian underpass (under the road), quite an unusual location. Part of a roman street is still there, too. This is the smallest of the three components, but the mosaic is very nice and can be seen from very close. It is sometimes referred as “Irene mosaic”, after the name of the lady in the middle of the mosaic. Irene was then seen as a personification of Peace. There is a small fee to visit the place.
For years, “Plovdiv old town” has been on Bulgaria tentative list. Indeed the old city is very pleasant, with many remains from Roman (theatre, circus, forum), Ottoman (mosque), 18th and 19th century (old houses) periods, and those are must see if you go to Plovdiv. Many streets are dedicated to pedestrians, traffic is limited is some other streets, and the whole area really looks good. However, there are elsewhere better preserved roman theatre, bigger ottoman mosque, etc. Our understanding is that Plovdiv will now push forward this nomination focused on early Christians mosaics for better chances to finally get the Unesco stamp. These three places were easy to find, and close to each other, so easily reached by foot.
2018 Added to Tentative List
The site has 3 locations