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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Belovo Basilica

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

My dear friends, to find out how to get here, visit the journey "The village of Golyamo Belovo and the trail to the Belovo Basilica".

The ruins of the Belovo basilica (Belovska basilica)
The majestic ruins of the Belovo Basilica

Currently, the basilica is the best preserved part of the ruined late antique and medieval city-fortress of Levke, located on an area of 80 acres.

The ruins of the Belovo basilica (Belovska basilica)

Time has preserved only the western facade of the building with two rows of windows (additionally reinforced), the southern part of the lobby and the northern arcade of the interior of the building.

The ancient church belongs to the basilica buildings with a vaulted roof in the central part. The large rectangle together with the oval apses to the east is 28 meters long and about 17 meters wide.

The building is divided into three longitudinal naves and the middle one is twice as wide as the side ones. In addition, the central one rose higher than the side ones, and probably the light inside the building penetrated through semicircular windows.

The ruins of the Belovo basilica (Belovska basilica)

To the east, all three naves end in elongated, separated oval apses.

It seems that the altar was not separated from the rest of the church.

The interior of the church is spatially divided into four pairs of rectangular pillars, massively built with pilasters to the central and side naves, on which step the arches bearing the roof structures.

The ruins of the Belovo basilica (Belovska basilica)

The peculiarity of the building is that it does not have a central entrance from the west. Through two side entrances to the northern and southern part of the three-part narthex you enter the central part, illuminated by two rows of windows to the western facade and from there to the interior.

The construction of the basilica in the foundations is of medium-sized quarry stone, and the walls are built of square bricks, welded with red mortar.

The Belovo Basilica in the area of St. Spas (also Spasovitsa) is dated to the IV ÷ V century AD. According to research, it was in the town of Belovo that the Levke diocese, which disappeared but is still mentioned in chronicles and ancient documents, existed.

In the Middle Ages, a monastery, known today as the Golyamobelovski Monastery, was established around the early Christian church. This monastery lasted until the 17th century, when it was destroyed by the Turks during the conversion of the Bulgarians from the Chepino riverbed to Islam. Probably then the basilica was destroyed.

The first historical information about the fortress and the basilica is from the famous Bulgarian revivalist - Stefan Zahariev from Pazardzhik, in his description of the Tatar Kaazar market. Followed by the descriptions of Petko Rachov Slaveykov and other famous Bulgarian Revivalists.

In 1915 the Bulgarian scientist Petar Mutafchiev made the first scientific description of the basilica above the village of Golyamo Belovo, and in 1922 - 1924 the first archeological excavations were conducted, financed by the American millionaire William Whitmore and realized under the direction of Todor Gerasimov from the Archaeological Institute. The consultant of the study is the world-famous Byzantine scholar Andrey Grabar.

In the period from 1978 to 1996, excavations followed under the auspices of the National History Museum.

It was then that Levke was excavated and made famous for the first time.

The restoration and conservation of the basilica began in 1989 and was completed in 1994. The arches in the lobby have been built and the floor is covered with gravel. In this form the basilica is suitable for visits by tourists.

It is very important to note that it is no coincidence that I chose to visit this period of the year, during which the deciduous trees (mostly oak) are not leafy.

The trail to here, especially the remains themselves, are immersed in greenery, which literally envelops everything around. Access to and around the ruin itself and photos during the leafing of nature would simply not be possible! Probably in the warmer weather after spring, the surrounding area would be full of life (insects, snakes and lizards), which would not be good for the visitors themselves.

Near the ruins there is an old inscription, probably placed in 1981, which reads "At this place in September 1981 the population of the Belovo settlement system celebrated the 13th anniversary of the Bulgarian state."

The ruins of the Belovo basilica (Belovska basilica)

Opposite this old inscription there is a sign in the shape of an arrow, on which is written "Levke" and which will take us to the next great adventure.

The trail to the ruins of the ancient city-fortress of Levke

I wish you an exceptional and impressive walk!

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