Archaeologists in Plovdiv uncover early Christian mosaics at Great Basilica site

Archaeologists working at the site of the Great Basilica, the largest early Christian church found in Bulgaria – believed to date from between the fourth and fifth centuries – have uncovered two layers of a mosaic and remnants of the foundations of a Roman building.

The Great Basilica site is near Plovdiv’s 19th century Roman Catholic St Ludwig church. The basilica was 86.3 metres long and 38.5 metres wide, and had three naves with an apse at the eastern end of the central nave. On the western side, there was an atrium, surrounded by a colonnade on three sides.

Archaeological work on the site resumed in a 4.9 million project in May 2015, after decades in which the mosaics were covered after they were discovered in the 1980s.

As of early June, specialists were working on one of the most brilliant mosaics, which symbolises the source of life, Plovdiv website reported.

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Work on the mosaic is extremely difficult because it is not in very good condition. It is being dealt with painstakingly, tile by tile. The picture depicts two peacocks and a fountain. Restoration will be based on photographs years ago, when the site was first found during a subsequently-abandoned construction project.

The lower layer is significantly more ornamentally-decorated and colourful and is in better condition. The parts uncovered so far largely depict various crosses. This layer is exciting considerable interest among those working on the site because it had not been uncovered previously.

Archaeologists are also probing part of the site where, apart from layers of mosaics and plaster, the foundations of a building have been discovered, most likely from the Roman period.

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Beneath the lower layer, a few centimetres of mortar have been found, leading to the theory at that some point in the life of the Great Basilica, it was decided to cover previous work to create a new mosaic.

Teams working on the site are gathering hundreds of mosaic stones that have been scattered in various places around it. In several places, parts of the priceless artifacts are missing, but archaeologists are optimistic about the future overall brilliance of the two layers of the early Christian mosaic.

Once all the layers are revealed, they will be given a protective covering using a special technique with a view to their display in the future Great Basilica Museum.




The Sofia Globe staff

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