Even the most fascinating archaeological site is nothing more than an accumulation of stones if its history and contexts remain unknown. This May, for two days, historians, archaeologists, restorers and experts in other fields shared their findings and ideas about the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis at a scientific conference in Plovdiv.
Apart from St Sofia in the capital, the marvellous mosaics of the Bishop's Basilica and the Small Basilica in Plovdiv, and the remains of the metropolitan church in Nesebar, traces of the early Byzantine era in Bulgaria are scarce and little known. They do exist, however: forgotten remnants of the time when the Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold back the invasions of the Barbarians in the Balkans. Most are nothing more than low crumbling walls, almost invisible in the undergrowth and interesting only to archaeologists. Others, however, are still striking, despite time, neglect and the depredations of those seeking second-hand building materials.
Peacocks, parrots, guineafowls cover the floor of Bulgaria's largest Antiquity church, the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis
The contrast between the drab town of Devnya and its Museum of Roman Mosaics is shocking – the modernistic concrete museum building preserves some of the best mosaics ever found in Bulgaria. Here they are, astonishing images made of thousands of stone tiles, exhibited in situ in a museum that was purpose built for them in the early 1980s.
Straight streets intersecting at right angles: Stara Zagora, a southern Bulgarian city of 150,000, is the only one of its type in Bulgaria. It is the result of a tragedy and a necessity. In the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, Stara Zagora was razed to the ground after a vicious battle. Rebuilding began in 1878 according to a plan by an Austro-Hungarian architect.