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An entire insula (quarter) of the ancient city was built in the late third and early fourth centuries. In its place were buildings from the second and third centuries, which were destroyed during the Gothic invasions in 251. Its area is 1,393 square meters, bounded on all four sides by streets up to 6.70 meters wide and paved with stone slabs.


The building has the traditional plan of the Roman atrium-peristyle dwelling. The courtyard is paved with stone slabs and is surrounded by a portico with a colonnade. 16 residential and commercial premises are located around it. The building had a drainage and sewage system. The water supply was from the well in the middle of the yard and through a water supply made of lead pipes. The southern part was two-story, with the owners' bedrooms mostly located on the second floor.


The walls of most living quarters were covered with colored wall plaster, frescoes or marble cladding, and there were plaster moldings under the ceilings. In three of these rooms, a corridor and the portico, multicolored mosaic floors have been preserved. The floors were decorated with a variety of geometric motifs, local and exotic animals and birds, figural images and mythological scenes. With some interruptions and reconstructions, the building lasted until the end of the sixth century, when it was finally destroyed and abandoned.

About the Museum
Ancient building with mosaics

The building with the mosaics was built at the end of the third - beginning of the fourth century. The remains of the older building, which existed in this place in the second - third century, were further demolished and leveled. Only some stronger load-bearing walls were preserved and used. They fit into the architecture of the new building, as its plan was different from the plan of the original one.


Some old architectural details were reused during construction. Some were used as architectural details or building material (for example, some cornices built into the eastern facade). Others were used in their original function (several bases, columns, capitals in the colonnade of the portico). In general, the architectural appearance of the building with the mosaics gives way to its artistic decoration. This is associated with the beginning of the decline in late Roman architecture and construction.


The architectural details found during the excavations (very few found in their original place) illustrate with their diversity the centuries-old architectural history of Marcianople in different stages of its existence.

Life in the Mosaic Building


The archaeological materials found during the excavations of the building are not very diverse, but they illustrate different aspects of the lives of its inhabitants. In the kitchen, coarser gray clay vessels were used. The tableware is of fine yellow clay, but there are also luxurious (imported) red lacquer pans. The cups are mostly clay and glass.


Lighting was provided by clay lamps made in the city. It is likely that one of the owners was connected with their production, as a mold model for similar lamps was found in the building.


Bone awls and sewing needles, clay spindle spindles and loom weights were used in everyday activity. Details of the clothing and decoration of the inhabitants can be judged from the found bone needles and amulet, fibulae and bronze bracelet. Inscriptions on some pottery and objects show that educated people also lived here. Apart from the mosaics and wall decorations, the aesthetic taste of the inhabitants was satisfied with multi-colored stucco with plant motifs and ornamental plaster cornices.

General information about the museum

Architectural details of the building

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The Museum of Mosaics in Devnia presents Roman and early Byzantine mosaics from Marcianopolis. The idea for its construction was born in the course of archaeological research, which began in 1976 and continued intermittently for five seasons1. During these investigations, a large late Roman building with mosaics (villa urbana) was uncovered.


The museum was built according to a project by architect Kamen Goranov on part of the ancient foundations of the building with mosaics2. It was built at the end of the 3rd - the beginning of the 4th century (the time of Constantine I the Great) on the site of an earlier building (buildings) destroyed during the Gothic invasions in 250-251. With repairs and reconstructions, the building lasted until the beginning of the 7th century. The building occupies the area of an entire neighborhood (insula) with a length of 37.15 m (north-south) and a width of 37.75 m (east-west). Its plan follows the traditions of the Greco-Roman atrium-peristyle dwelling. Around an atrium (11.11 x 5.87 m), paved with stone slabs, with a brick well in the middle (with a diameter of 0.76 m), surrounded on three sides by a covered gallery with a limestone colonnade (peristyle) ( 92.63 sq. m), there are 21 residential, commercial and storage premises with a total area of 1402 sq. m. The walls of the residential premises were covered with colored plasters and murals, with plaster stucco.


Five of the rooms of the building and the portico are covered with multicolored floor mosaics – some of the best examples of Roman mosaic art of that time found in Bulgaria. Three of these mosaics are presented in the museum in situ in the rooms where they were discovered, and the rest, after conservation and partial restoration, have been transferred to a new supporting base. The mosaics are made in the classic opus tesselatum and opus vermiculatum techniques from small stones – cubes (tesserae) of marble, limestone, baked clay and colored glass (enamel), in 16 colors. They mainly depict characters and scenes from Greco-Roman mythology, exotic animals and birds, plant and geometric motifs.

History and technique of mosaics

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Mosaics represent a covering of the floor, walls or ceiling of the premises. They are made of small stones of different colors and sizes, as well as different materials. The earliest mosaics were found in the Sumerian city of Uruk (Iraq) at the end of the fourth millennium BC. They represent a lining of columns of stamps - clay cones stuck in the still wet plaster. The first floor mosaic is considered to be the one discovered in the Phrygian city of Gordion (Asia Minor). It dates back to the seventh century BC and has various geometric motifs.


In Greece, the oldest are the mosaics in the city of Olynthus, dating from the fifth century BC. They are made of white and black river pebbles and some have figural images. In the second and first centuries BC, mosaics were mainly made of multi-colored pebbles - cubes measuring 1x1x1 cm, called tesserae. They form various ornaments or figures. This technique is called opus tesselatum, and it mainly uses geometric motifs. Opus vermiculatum is used for figural compositions - very small cubes of stone, baked clay or enamel (glass paste). Their size and shape varies depending on the plot. The third type is the opus sectile. It uses large tiles of multi-colored marble or other types of stone of different shapes, which form complex geometric compositions.


When making the mosaics, the terrain is first leveled and tamped well. About 30 cm of drainage is made of large stones on top of it, and mortar with a thickness of 5 - 10 cm is poured over it, mixed with coarsely crushed pebbles and bricks. Next is a layer of 5 cm of mortar with impurities of finely crushed bricks. When it is still wet, the cubes are arranged on top of it according to a preliminary drawing. In some cases, the central panel, so called emblem, is made separately and placed in a previously prepared bed. In its finished form, the floor mosaic imitates a gorgeous multi-colored carpet. Although rare, mosaics are still made today, but they are mostly wall-mounted.

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