Honoring ALE: A Photo Story Dedicated to the Basilica’s Workers

Was ALE a stonemason working on the Basilica?

In a stroke of inspiration seventeen centuries ago—or in diligent observance of his duties—a worker on the Basilica site carved АЛЕ (ALE) on the base of a stone column for posterity to wonder: Were the letters part of his or his guild’s name, or did they convey a message to his colleagues? Was he accounting for the day’s work, and if so, why didn’t he sign his name in paint, a much more common method of exchanging worksite information?

Or can we speculate that ALE (Alexander?) was particularly proud of his work and communicating his authorship for future generations to admire?

We will never know, and ALE will remain one of the many mysteries of the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis.

While this particular stone worker may stay anonymous, here we would like to acknowledge those who rolled up their sleeves and got their hands “dirty” over the past six years—the paid and unpaid workers who helped bring the Basilica back to life: archaeologists, restorers, masons, machine operators, cleaners, electricians, exhibit handlers, volunteers.

Crediting the work of all who lent muscle power to this project would cover a full basilica floor layer or fill a good-size book. This photo story celebrates them all and is a reminder that a project of such monumental proportions is the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of anonymous ALEs. While we may not know the names of all of them, here we capture some of their faces. Whether they shoveled sand, brushed away debris, connected electrical grids, assembled complex installations or machinery, or carried heavy objects, the contribution of each and every one of them is helping to write the newest chapter of the Basilica’s story.

Volunteers at the Basilica in 2015. Photo by Jeremiah Chamberlin


Jenny Tankova, lead archaeologist (2015–2019). Photo by Boyana Stoilova


Uncovering ancient mosaics requires a lot of sweeping


Volunteers tracing mosaics to mark their exact position


ABF senior management were frequent volunteers


Bay Ivan was technical supervisor on the Basilica site


Mosaic restorers at work


Sculptor Theodore Bonev and an assistant at the sculptor’s studio. A bronze model of ancient Philippopolis by Mr. Bonev can be seen in the outdoor area of the Basilica’s second level.


Volunteers helped remove the sand protecting the mosaics


Taking a short break


It’s all coming together


Making sure the wiring is as unobtrusive as possible


There are no impossible projects for Tsvetomir Mihaylov from Exit Advertising


All it takes sometimes is girlpower


Feeling good after a hard day’s work


A worker on the Basilica’s second level


Getting the second level ready for visitors


The team of London-based Science Projects created and installed the Discovery Zone for children and their families


The movers team


If you are looking for reliable movers, give us a call.


Watch your step!

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