Mosaics from The Small Basilica in Plovdiv

In rescue excavations (1988) preceding the construction of an apartment building (№23) on “Lilyana Dimitrova” Blvd. (today “Maria Luisa” Blvd.), archaeologist Mina Bospachieva discovered part of Philippopolis’ fortification walls and west of an early Christian basilica west of these (1990-1991). Smaller than the Great Basilica, the newly discovered church was called the Small Basilica. It has a nave with two aisles, a single apse, and a one-bay narthex. The floors in all the spaces are covered in polychrome mosaics, except for the chapel on the southern side. There is an ambo in the center of the nave and an enclosure for the altar, which hid the first two rows of a framed (tabula ansata) ancient Greek donor inscription. The basilica was destroyed by a fire and later restored with no significant changes in its plan.

The original basilica’s mosaics were buried under the brick floor of the restored basilica; the new tripartite narthex’s foundations destroyed some parts of the old mosaics. A baptistery was added at the northeastern corner of the basilica, and a deep cruciform baptismal font (piscina) was built in its floor. The floor was initially covered with bricks over which was later laid a polychrome mosaic depicting a couple of deer and a couple of birds surrounded by an intricate frame.

The mosaic floor of the original basilica dates to the second half of the 5th and that of the baptistery to the beginning of the 6th.

Parts of the mosaic, as well as the piscina and the mosaic in the baptistery, are preserved in situ while the rest of the mosaics were lifted in two campaigns (1993-1994, 1998). Under the guidance of conservator Elena Kantareva-Decheva, the fragments were located and restored (2011-2012). After the building of a protective enclosure above the basilica, they were placed in situ (2013).

Кантарева-Дечева, Е. „Проектът Малка базилика. Реставрация и експониране на подовата мозайка” – Годишник на Академия за музикално, танцово и изобразително изкуство Пловдив 2020 (Пловдив, 2021), 46-59.

Popova, V., A. Lirsch “Bodenmosaiken der sog. Kleinen Basilika” – In: Pillinger, R., A. Lirsch, V. Popova (eds.) Corpus der spätantiken und frühchristlichen Mosaiken Bulgariens (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2016), 227-238.

Боспачиева, М., В. Коларова Пловдив – град върху градовете Филипопол-Пулпудева-Пълдин (София: ТОЛА, 2014), 235-253.

Bospachieva, M. “A Small Early Christian Basilica with Mosaics at Philipopolis (Plovdiv)” – Archaeologia Bulgarica VI, 2 (2002), 55-76.

Link to Google Maps:

Ground plan:

Galleries

Mosaic floor from the second half of the 5th century

Mosaic floor of the baptistery from the beginning of the 6th century

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