In Christian art, a stag is associated with the soul’s longing for salvation and is often found near baptismal pools as a symbol of the soul’s desire for purification. Stags crave water just like Christians crave faith. This sumptuous 6th Century AD mosaic made of marble, pebbles, ceramics, and glass is from the recently restored Small Basilica in Plovdiv.
During the construction of an apartment block in 1988, the ruins of the early Christian church were accidentally discovered. The site was abandoned and left for years in continued oblivion until 2010 due to the initiative and financial support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria and the Plovdiv Municipality. An intensive three-year conservation effort to restore the mosaics took place under the supervision of Associate Professor Elena Kantareva-Decheva.
In 2013, the mosaics were returned “home” to the Small Basilica, and the tiles left in situ were cleaned and displayed to their former glory. The Small Basilica Archeological Museum was opened to the public in 2013 and soon won national recognition as Building of the Year in the ‘Cultural Heritage’ category.