Project Small Basilica


A stag from the Small Basilica baptisterium, a detailA stag from the Small Basilica baptisterium, a detail

During the construction of an apartment block in Plovdiv in 1988, the ruins of an early Christian church from the middle of the 5th-the end of the 6th centuries were accidentally discovered. The floor of the church was covered with geometrical mosaics. A cross-shaped baptismal pool made of marble and decorated with fine mosaics depicting a stag and doves was discovered in the baptistery.

The fine mosaics of the Small Basilica were subject to emergency conservation soon thereafter. In 1993-1994, a National Monuments of Culture Institute team removed and put in storage about half of the mosaics, leaving and conserving the rest in situ.

In 1995, the Small Basilica and the adjacent section of the fortification wall were declared a monument of culture of national significance.

In 2000, the archaeologist Mina Bospachieva and the restorationist Elena Kantareva-Decheva, in cooperation with the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Massachusetts, obtained funding from the New York-based Trust for Mutual Understanding to restore some of the mosaics.

In 2010, upon the initiative and with the financial support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Plovdiv Municipality, a thorough conservation and restoration of the mosaics began under the supervision of Associate Professor Elena Kantareva-Decheva.

In 2013, the removed mosaics were brought back to the Small Basilica, and the ones left in situ were cleaned and restored. The site was converted into an in situ archaeological museum.