Bishop Basilica

 


First, there were the heretics. Philippopolis was a stronghold of Arianism, whose followers believed that the Holy Son was not equal, but subordinate to the Holy Father and the Holy Spirit. Its adherents were so many, that while in 343 ecclesiastical leaders from all over the empire met in Serdica (today's Sofia) and condemned Arianism as heresy, in Philippopolis an alternative meeting was held. It gathered 76 bishops, who followed Arianism, with the bishop of Philippopolis presiding. The citizens kept their soft spot for heresies for the next centuries; in the Middle Ages, Plovdiv became a centre of Paulicianism.

Then there was the lack of proper prayer houses in the 4th Century. Churches were few and far between, so some of the rich houses were used as temples. Archeologists suspect the Mansion Eirene was one of those.

During Silvanus's stay in Philippopolis, the number of churches increased. Whether he was the moving force behind the construction of new churches will probably remain a mystery, but by the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th centuries several marvelous basilicas were erected in Philippopolis.

Three churches appeared in the eastern part of the city - in the plain, where they stood next to the synagogue. Today, archeologists suggest that the area was the holy quarter of Christian Philippopolis, citing the fact that the bishopric basilica was located there.

It was the greatest church of Roman Philippopolis and one of the greatest at the time in what would become present-day Bulgaria. It was probably built over an earlier building with a similar plan which covered the space for two insulae (quarters defined by four perpendicular streets).

In its heyday, the Bishop Basilica was a sight that could make every bishop rejoice.