Mosaics from The Small Basilica in Plovdiv

During rescue excavations (1988, 1990-1) 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 an early Christian basilica directly west of them. Since the newly discovered church was smaller than the Great Basilica, it was called the Small Basilica. It has a nave with an apse and two side aisles and a one-bay narthex. The floors in all the spaces are covered in polychrome mosaics, except for the chapel on the basilica’s 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) donor inscription in ancient Greek. The basilica was destroyed by a fire and later restored with no significant changes to its plan.

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

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

Portions of the Small Basilica’s mosaics were conserved in situ, which is also the case for the piscina and mosaic in the baptistery, while the rest of the basilica’s mosaics were lifted in two campaigns (1993-1994, 1998). These fragments were later located and restored under the guidance of conservator Elena Kantatreva-Decheva (2011-2012). After the building of a protective enclosure above the basilica, these fragments 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.


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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