The Episcopal Basilica of Philippopolis is delightful. Although it is even so difficult to describe in one sentence the impression of all the amazing stories this temple has collected in itself for 12 centuries. It was the largest Christian monastery in the city and today is one of the largest basilicas in Bulgaria of this period. Built in place of an older one with a similar plan, the building was spread over two floors with its exquisite marble columns and floor covered with multicolored mosaics. A donation inscription reveals that the Basilica was built with a donation by a Christian bishop, but his name hasn’t yet been revealed. The temple was opened during a large-scale reconstruction of the central thoroughfare in Plovdiv after rescue archeological excavations.
During the work on the site, the specialists discovered more than 2000 square meters of floor mosaic. Among the most notable discoveries are images of over 70 species of birds, two mosaic floors, created at different times, numerous columns and capitals from inside the building and from its beautiful yard.
The first floor is the site of the mosaics of the older archaeological layer and the first Basilica. Below it was an old pagan building from Roman Philippopolis, but very few artifacts remained from that period. Its presence will also be delicately noted in the new museum. However, the focus is the old mosaics, which are shown in situ as they were discovered.
Right from the start, guests will also see one of the first masterpieces - the famous and trademarked peacock. The colors of each pebble stand out clearly, and the shapes they form are a true work of art.
The second floor accommodates the second layer of mosaics. They have already been taken out of their context and are being restored on the basis of archaeological discoveries, and unlike the uneven bottom layer they have been leveled. Their style is very different, with many birds, instead of the more decorative and abstract shapes below.
Not only the contours of feathers appear beneath the brush of the restorers, but of birds with bright plumage and in extremely plausible poses - a male in attack, specimens focused on the search for food, a mother feeding her little one and another in a defensive posture. The birds themselves are becoming an important part of the exposition - on one screen each visitor will be able to choose a bird existing in front of it on a mosaic and learn more about it - whether it still exists today, what it looks like, where it lives and so on.
In the future museum, antique mosaics and many artifacts will be exhibited and presented through technologically pedestrian walks, incl. added and virtual reality, touch-screen and children’s "Zone of the discoveries", which shows the history of the Basilica in a clear, fun and exciting way. It is expected to be open to visitors in 2020.
This year, UNESCO approved the nomination of the Episcopal Basilica and the Roman mosaic heritage of Philippopolis for inclusion in the Indicative List of Important Cultural and Natural Sites.