THE UNDERGROUND MUSEUM UNDER THE BASILICA OF ST. SOFIA AND THE TOMB OF HONORIUS ARE OPEN FOR VISITORS
President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and mayor of Sofia YordankaFandukova during opening of the restored antique tomb of Honorius in August 2014. Dr. Todor Chobanov Deputy Mayor of Sofia is presenting unique archaeological complex.
Over a hundred antique tombs and the foundations of four churches have remained closed under the Basilica of St. Sofia in Sofia for centuries. Here was the Necropolis of Serdica. In 1910-11 Prof. Bogdan Filov discovered the earliest one – navy, with a conch and polychrome mosaics in two canvases, discovered by Prof. V. Dobruski in 1893 (“ The paradise ”) and to the west of the nave (mostly with geometrical motives), studied by Prof. Filov. In 1903 S. Pokrovski discovered the third canvas – a central one, with organic and zoomorphic motives. The church probably functioned till the beginning of the Gothic invasions from 376-382 It is possible the Second Council of Serdica be held in one of the temples in 343. It didn’t survive till the end of the century and during the reign of the emperor Teodosius I (379-395) a three-navy Basilica was erected on its place. It was demolished at the end of the 4th century. Then (at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century) a new three-navy Basilica was built on the same place. The floor was covered with polychrome mosaics, filled with geometric and organic motives. It could have been destroyed during the big invasion of the Huns in the middle of the 5th century.
In the middle of the 6th century emperor Justinianus the Great ordered on its place to be built a Basilica, devoted also to the God’s wisdom. It is considered that it has been bearing this name for over 1400 years.
The archeological researches constantly discover new sides of the Christian antiquity, which have been preserved here. During the 80s and 90s of the 20th century the Basilica was restored and saved with an image, which was the nearest to the late antique and medieval original.
The vault of the present Basilica of St. Sofia can be visited by tourists nowadays. Some passages were cut in the two walls from the bases of the main ship and entrances were opened to the basement on the north and south side of the temple in 2002. 49 graves and tombs from the 3rd and the beginning of 5th century were restored, conserved and exhibited at the depth of 6 meters. Some of the built tombs had murals, mainly with Christian motives. The guests can look around them through a special route of 1200 sq. m. and they can see the bases of the small churches and parts of the mosaics of the second temple. The mosaic from the 4th century, which had remained in the first church of the east Necropolis is kept in the Archeological museum, which is situated in the stone building from the 15th century, opposite the fountain in front of the Presidency.
As a part of the underground archeological museum, at the end of August, 2014, the tomb of Honorius was opened for visitors in front of the Basilica of St. Sofia.
It has been a tomb since 5th – 6th century and it is defended by a glass construction, which allows a glance of it from above. The finding is valuable with the fact that it is the only tomb from the late antiquity in Bulgaria, where the name of the deceased exists.
“The tomb is unique – for the first time we discover an inscription with the name of the deceased, which is individual, not a family one – said Dr. Todor Chobanov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia. – There is an inscription on the inner part of the tomb in Latin and Greek – “Honorius – a God’s servant”, and there are manuscripts of crosses and organic motives. According to the scientists, who have studied the place, it shows that the ancient people appreciated the deceased person very much. They suppose that he had been a great churchman, who had taken part in the Council of Serdica in 343.”
More than 30 000 people have visited the underground archeological museum since its opening in May, 2013, and since August, 2014 the tomb of Honorius has been attracting a lot of visitors.
UNDERGROUND ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
TOMB OF HONORIUS
Foto: Georgi Koguharov