Heraclea Lyncestis, ancient city near Bitola


Mosaics of Heraclea Lyncestis

In the western sector of today Heraclea, fully is revealed the great Byzantine three-nave basilica, the narthex, and porch, as the annexes to the south and north side. The floors of the church and the other rooms are covered with mosaic, which derive various geometric and other figures from the flora and fauna. Mosaics, discovered on the floor of the narthex of the Great Basilica (1963 and 1964) are distinguished by their artistic qualities and iconographic peculiarities.

In iconographic terms, these mosaic decorations have cosmic significance in accordance with the idea that the church is a microcosm, or Christian universe, in an unusual variant.

Heraclea mosaic chamber 3 - Heraclea Lyncestis, ancient city near Bitola

Heraclea mosaic large basilica - Heraclea Lyncestis, ancient city near Bitola

heraclea mosaic libtrary - Heraclea Lyncestis, ancient city near Bitola

Here the universe is shown in four domains. In the middle of the rectangular field is represented kantharos which grows vines and is flanked with deer and peacocks as a symbol of the sacred domain. The grape tree and the Trophy are symbols of Christ himself, his body and blood.

The second domain is given by the representation of the Garden of Eden. From both sides of the medallions are placed five trees, full with fruit, with flying birds around. The garden is protected by the  Cerberus, red dog, tied to a fig tree.

The third domain is the representation of the earth symbolized by the wildlife, delivered in aggressive situations or persecuted.

In border area around in rectangular box is contained the fourth domain – ocean representation of aquatic animals: in 11 fields of freshwater and 17 marine.

The mosaic represents the entire Christian universe, all its four domains. Iconographic formula for the Christian understanding of the universe, the spherical display the artist adapted rectangular field, representing a new possible solution.

The universe can be represented in the sanctuary and the middle boat, but its performance is possible and in the narthex as it proved in the case of the basilica in Heraclea.
According to the stylistic features and the development degree of the forms it is assumed that this puzzle was made at the end of the V or the beginning of the VI century AD.

Apart unearthed architectural structures from the early Byzantine era, partly from the Roman period, discovered are also inscriptions and plastic tombstones, which are exhibited in the Museum in Bitola and the Lapidarium of Skopje Archaeological Museum.

The bust of the Athenian speaker Eshin (now in the British Museum in London)The bust of the Athenian speaker Eshin (now in the British Museum in London), Roman copy of “Athena Parthenos” (National Museum, Belgrade), Honorary and votive monuments of the portico and others, occurred in Roman times, talk about the favorable conditions in which developed the city Heraclea and its cultural and artistic success.

athena partenos bitola museum