Bishop Basilica



The cathedral had three naves divided by rows of marble columns, an apse, and a large atrium, or open air court, with porticoes. Its walls were covered in frescoes, of which only fragments have been preserved. The presbyterium, the low podium where the bishop and the high clergy sat during mass, had marble tiles floors.

The floors were covered with intricate mosaics with geometrical designs; eternal knots symbols; vases springing the water of eternal life; and an astonishing array of birds, the early-Christian symbols of pious souls. The area was so huge – archaeologists have discovered about 700 sq.m of mosaics on two layers from the 5th and the 6th centuries – and the deadlines were so tough that two teams of artisans worked together on the floors. The difference of their work and style were still clearly visible when the mosaics were unearthed in 1983-1985.

The Bishop Basilica was grand enough for the high status of clergy in Philippopolis. When the Fourth Ecumenical Council gathered in Chalcedon in 451, among other decisions, it cemented the already established metropolitan position of Philippopolis. In the 4-6th centuries, the names of seven metropolitans of the city are known, Silvanus is one of them.

Sadly, the cathedral didn't serve for long. The 6th Century was tumultuous and the building was in the plain. It was demolished and abandoned, probably in 577, when 100,000 Slavs stormed the Balkans. In the Middle Ages, local people used its remains as a source for ready-made building material.