New public space between the Bishop’s Basilica exhibition building and the St. Ludwig Cathedral
AN ANCIENT MONUMENT IN A MODERN CITY
In Late Antiquity, the Bishop’s Basilica was at the center of Philippopolis’ public life. The initiative of America for Bulgaria Foundation and Plovdiv Municipality to conserve, restore, display and construct a protective cover for the basilica aims to bring it back to life.
The project designed by ZOOM Studio, the DUO Atelier, Abstracta and landscape architect Mirela Dimitrova-Douillard envisages a new square between the St. Ludwig Catholic Cathedral and the Bishop’s Basilica. The new square will emphasize the significance of the two buildings and will make pedestrian access easier through the Archaeological Underpass where the Eirene Building is situated. Consequently, the Bishop’s Basilica will be integrated with Plovdiv’s pedestrian zone and overall urban environment.
The project elegantly socializes archaeology in an urban environment. The basilica display will showcase the two layers of the fabulous mosaics and parts of its original architecture in keeping with the principle of maximum authenticity. Its space will be appropriate for temporary exhibitions and cultural events, similar to Plovdiv’s Small Basilica project already completed by America for Bulgaria Foundation and Plovdiv Municipality.
The Bishop’s Basilica will be accessible to pedestrians and bicycle riders. It will provide areas for organized tourist groups and recreational activities for children. Green buffer zones will reduce noise pollution from nearby streets.
The ancient basilica will enrich the visual and functional environment of the modern city and will soon become a favored location for both its citizens and visitors.
PUBLIC SUPPORT AND VOLUNTEERS
The conservation, restoration, display and protective cover project was one of the most important initiatives of Plovdiv Municipality as European Capital of Culture in 2019. To complete the Bishop’s Basilica, the municipality concluded agreements with the Ministry of Culture and America for Bulgaria Foundation.
Restoration of the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis is supported not just by the state institutions and agencies but also by the local community and businesses. The archaeological excavations in 2016-2017 were aided by more than 450 volunteers. They included school students and lawyers, journalists and engineers, architects and builders, tourist guides and NGO representatives, judges and prosecutors, classical musicians and writers, members of the diplomatic corps, Bulgarians and citizens from all over.
The assistance of volunteers was instrumental in unearthing the mosaics and the remains of the northern and a part of the central nave of the Bishop’s Basilica.
The work of volunteers had more than just a practical consequence. To touch 1,500-year-old mosaics, to explore the ruins of a building stepped on by human feet centuries ago, to partake in the laborious and complex but always gratifying process of discovering history, provided the volunteers with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the past in the most illuminating manner and discover for themselves that history and archaeology mean more than just a collection of stones, pottery shards and mosaics.
Both national and regional media in Bulgaria enthusiastically report on all significant finds in the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis.