First discovered in 1982 during road construction in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis is being brought back to life thanks to a public-private partnership between the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF), Plovdiv Municipality, and Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture. The project for restoration of the Bishop’s Basilica began in 2014 and builds on the experience of ABF and the Plovdiv Municipality with the successful completion of another site in Plovdiv – the Small Basilica.
The Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis is the largest Early Christian temple in this country. A coin dating back to the times of Emperor Licinius (308-324) discovered during the excavations of the Bishop’s Basilica, has spawned the hypothesis that the basilica was among the first to be erected in the Roman Empire after Christianity was legalized, in 313 AD.
The restored Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis will open to the public in 2020 as a visitor center providing a rich experience that blends history, ancient art and modern technologies. The Center will display more than 20,000 square feet (2,000 sq.m.) of 4th – 6th century Roman mosaics in two layers presented on two levels, in situ and on a second floor. The mosaic floor features more than 100 unique medallions with different bird species; from dancing guinea fowls to peacocks with opened tails, from babbling parrots to a bird feeding its chick.
The center includes an interactive children’s “Discovery Zone” to present the Basilica’s history in an understandable, engaging manner. The outdoor area will include a children’s playground which incorporates the history of the Basilica site, a café, and a gathering place for entertainment. The playground is made possible through a contribution by EVN, the electrical power supply company for the region. EVN will also donate an electric car charging station at the Basilica.
The Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis is on the UNESCO tentative list and is pursuing inclusion on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites.