The new look of the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis is increasingly taking shape as the construction process approaches completion. Electrical wiring and lighting are in progress, the installation of façade elements and the protective cover are being finished.
The “laying” of the restored mosaics from the second (more recent) layer, which will be showcased on the second floor, is about to be finalized. The project includes walkways in the middle and along the edges of the exhibition hall, as well as a small glass bridge allowing visitors to see the most beautiful bird mosaics below.
The bottom layer of mosaics—displayed at the site where it was discovered at archaeological level—is currently being reinforced and cleaned. Construction is carried out with utmost care, mindful of the specifics of the site and the discovered archeology.
The two levels are connected via a unique metal spiral ramp in the east corner where the entire visitor flow will pass. The ramp is more than 40 m long and its shape is based on the geometry of the basilica's apse. The project was designed by the engineer Yordan Atanassov, and implemented by the company Zenit 2.
In terms of scale, the modern protective cover follows the outline of the original basilica whose height, however, was much more impressive.
The facades have a solid and a plique-à-jour section, including linear glass panels with a height of up to 7 m and white fiberglass insulation which allows diffused light in. The system was delivered from Germany and is being applied for the first time to a public building of this size in Bulgaria. The rounded part of the east façade, which also follows the outline of the basilica's apse, will be made of transparent glass panels so that the St Petka Church will be visible. A section of the north façade will be fitted with double glazing 4 m x 2.60 m in size which will allow a view of the Cathedral of St Louis from the inside while reflecting it on the outside, according to the architect Nikolai Traykov.
The basilica’s roof is designed as a green space with mineral elements, and its layout will remind of a small residential group known as the Catholic Quarter, which existed at this location until the 1960s.
The LED lighting is dimmable, energy efficient, with sensors that measure illumination and regulate the power of the lighting. Lightwells will let natural light in the north nave, located below the public space. The project envisages architectural lighting of the facades and the archaeological finds.
The OBK system creates the most appropriate microclimate in each area. For example, humidity is kept low in the bottom level of the building where mosaics are “іn ѕіtu,” while special humidifiers on the second level ensure that the mosaics laid on a concrete base do not crack.
The public space and the building are designed to function together as part of a new cultural and exposition urban center. The project includes outdoor event areas, a café, a terrace and a dry fountain. Work on the playground sponsored by EVN-Bulgaria is also advancing. Thus the Bishop’s Basilica will naturally integrate with the urban environment and the main pedestrian zone of modern Plovdiv.
The protective cover and the square were designed by Atelier Duo Plovdiv and Zoom Studio Sofia. The architect Milena Krachanova developed the concept of the conservation and restoration project and the plan for the showcasing of the artifacts, and was in charge of preparing the documentation for the UNESCO application.
American architect Lee Skolnick and his team at Skolnick Architecture + Design are working on the interactive expositions and audiovisual communication project aimed at presenting the priceless finds in the best possible contemporary way. Thanks to the innovative design, interactive elements, technologically assisted historical reenactments and various activities, the spirit of ancient Plovdiv and its rich mosaics heritage will come to life.
The ancient mosaics and the numerous artifacts will be showcased and presented through latest-generation technological solutions including Added and Virtual reality, touch screens and childrens’ "Discovery area," which will present the history of the basilica in an understandable, fun and exciting way.
Once the restoration works have been completed and the Bishop’s Basilica has opened its doors to visitors, one of the main highlights in the development of the Plovdiv tourism brand will be the achievements of recent years and the creation of a distinct cultural route dedicated to the ancient mosaics of Philippopolis. The route will include the Small and Great Basilicas and the cultural Thracart, deputy mayor Plamen Panov said during the meeting.
It is worth noting that the Bishop’s Basilica had once been abandoned, its remains had been buried and time had erased the memory of it. The oblivion lasted until the 1980s when the remains of a large building decorated with mosaics with geometric ornaments and birds emerged during the construction of an underpass.
In 1982-1986 a team of the Regional Archaeological Museum - Plovdiv, led by Elena Kesyakova, explored about half of the basilica. Parts of the mosaics were stored in the museum. A protective cover was built over the ruins but the unexplored section remained under the street. In 1995 the basilica was declared a cultural monument of national importance.
Unfortunately, in 1999 the protective cover collapsed. The condition of the mosaics deteriorated. After partial excavations conducted in 2002, which revealed that the basilica had been built on top of an older antique building, the mosaics were covered with a thin layer of sand.
Over the following years, the site again sank into oblivion. However, this has changed thanks to the initiative and funding of America for Bulgaria Foundation and the Municipality of Plovdiv.
In 2016-2017, the Bishop's Basilica was fully explored by a team of the Plovdiv Regional Archaeological Museum , led by Zheni Tankova, and restorers led by Assoc. Prof. Elena Kantareva-Decheva.



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