The Episcopal Basilica is one of the greatest and most elaborate late Classical sacral buildings of the archaeological site of Stobi. It was erected on the eastern part of the main street -Via Sacra. In this location, the remains of two buildings, known as the Old and the New Basilica, built and reconstructed in several phases between the 4th and the 5th century AD, were excavated.
The Old Basilica is probably the oldest Greek Christian church discovered on the territory of the FYROM.
The basilica was constructed during the ministry of the bishop Budios, present at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325.
The Old Basilica is a three-aisled building. Fresco paintings as well as the geometric and floral pavement mosaics date from the first construction period. The second construction phase, dating back to the first half of the 5th century, corresponds to the ministry of the Bishop Eustathios.
The remains of the fresco paintings decorated with the monograms of Christ and the Bishop Eustathios, and the mosaics in the nave, date from the same period.
At the end of the 5th century, the New Basilica, significantly larger, was constructed four meters above the level of the earlier church. Parts of walls adorned with gold mosaics, the remains of a crypt in the apse, and the columns date from the first construction phase.
An inscription describing the Bishop Philippos as the patron of the church, situated above the entrance of the nave, dates back to the second construction phase, around 530 AD.
The New Basilica ceased to function in the second half of the 6th century, after a catastrophic earthquake, which destroyed the city.
Much of the fresco that stood in the northeast conch has now been mended (FIG. Below).
The later design was a Greek cross with loops at the ends of each arm on the left and a still unidentified object on the right; the cross is yellow brown. Figures of the earlier composition can be seen in the center and on the right where the later lime wash is not so fully preserved. It is of interest to note that the human (or saintly) figures seem to be related to a slightly different "vertical" than the later designs. A closer look at the earlier figures is rewarding (FIG. BELOW).
A face in three-quarters view was partially obscured on the left by a face in full-frontal position, a startling but effective method for showing perspective. We have noted elsewhere that different sizes of figures were also employed to aid perspective.
The Greek letters ΛAOC above the figures to the right also belong to the earlier composition.
They could be a complete word in themselves ("people"), or perhaps were the last letters of the name of a saint (e.g. NIKOLAOS-ΝΙΚΟΛΑΟΣ ).
Hopefully, the beginning of the text will be found preserved when we eventually remove the late coating of lime wash on the left of the conch.
The Episcopal basilica dedicated by Bishop Philippos stood above the ruined early Roman theater from which many of the marbles used in the construction of the church were taken.
Its western entrance was from a paved and colonnaded street leading into the heart of the city from the Porta Heraclea.
The irregular, almost triangular form of this end of the basilica where the atrium was located was appar- ently the result of construction within space already clearly defined, chiefly by the street itself.The name is preserved on the lintel of the central doorway between the narthex and the nave.
The inscription in Greek reads:
- Excavations at Stobi, 1970, James Wiseman and Djordje Mano-Zissi, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 75, No. 4, (Oct., 1971), pp. 395-411, Archaeological Institute of America
- Excavations at Stobi, 1973-1974 by James Wiseman and Djordje Mano-Zissi , Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 1, No. 1/2, (1974), pp. 117-148, Boston University