News 21 Apr 16

Bulgaria Unveils Lost Roman City in Sofia

The ancient Roman city of Serdica, spread over 9,000 square metres in the Bulgarian capital, is now open to visitors and drawing comparisons between Sofia and Rome.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
 
 The historical site is located at the so-called Sofia largo - the square between the Council of the Ministers and the Presidency in Sofia. |Photo: Facebook

The restored Ancient Roman complex of Serdica, located in the centre of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, was officially opened on Wednesday.

First visitors to the historic site were Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, the Ministers of Culture and Regional Development, Vezhdi Rashidov and Lilyana Pavlova, as well as other members of the cabinet and state officials.

“We can all enjoy a unique site, which no other EU capital has, except Rome,” Rashidov boasted at the opening ceremony.

Among the most important attractions of ancient Serdica, which now forms the largest open-air museum in Bulgaria, is the Decumanus Maximus, the main road of the Roman city, which prospered between the First and Sixth centuries AD.

PM Boyko Borissov and minister of culture Vezhdi Rashidov at the opening of Ancient Serdica. | Photo: Facebook

Visitors can walk around preserved foundations of antique buildings, roads and a Christian basilica. The 2000-year-old pavement of the road has been preserved almost entirely.

An amphitheatre is located under a glass dome at the square between the Council of the Ministers and the Presidency.

The Culture Minister said that the project had been long-anticipated and had “suffered”, referring to its problematic realization.

Restoration of the Roman city started in 2011 and has absorbed over 15 million leva [around 7.5 million euros], allocated under the EU Regional Development Program.

One of the greatest challenges was to preserve the antique ruins during construction of the Sofia subway, whose tunnels had to pass under the site.

In October 2015, the Ministry of Culture was forced to freeze the project after citizens and experts protested against the methods and materials used in the reconstruction works.

What worried protesters was the open-air part of the archeological site, where ancient ruins were being completed with modern bricks and materials, making them look kitsch and artificial.

Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova admitted that part of the construction did not comply with the requirements of the project and demanded their removal.

Some of the activists who protested against the construction works last year attended the opening of Ancient Serdica on Tuesday, carrying posters stating, “History, not concrete”, “Restoration, not renovation”.

Borissov promised that the museum will be expanded in future to include a large Roman mosaic, which still lies under the ruins.

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