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Do you remember the show “Prison Break”?
What has it in common with the Basilica in Palmatis?
The show is a breathtaking, fast-paced story about Michael Scofield, who is imprisoned in Fox River State Penitentiary, trying to break out with his brother Lincoln Burrows. Scofield devises an elaborate plan of the escape and tattoos each step on his entire body.
And do you remember that along each of the tattoos there is a small Greek letter? The letters of the Greek alphabet have as well as phonetic also numeric value, as inspector Alexander Mahone figures out, who is chasing the fugitives. By understanding the sequence of the escape steps and he manages to catch the brothers at the final one.
Strangely, small Greek letters are also chiseled on some elements of the basilica in Palmatis.
Here, as well as on the Scofield’s body, they represent a sequence. One and the same letter is found on a particular base, column, and a capital that has to be put together. What we have is an ancient assembly plan. Apparently, the limestone elements were not produced on the site, but had been ordered and delivered from a remote stonemason atelier. The ancient masters took care to mark the position of every element in order to avoid any mistakes during construction. It is like taking home a basilica from IKEA.
Greek letters carved on the elements from the basilica in Palmatis are eight, corresponding to the eight rows of columns:
Alpha_Α,α=1 Beta_Β,β=2 Gamma_Γ,γ=3 Delta_Δ,δ=4 Epsilon_Ε,ε=5
Sigma_Σ,ς=6 Zeta_Ζ,ζ=7 Eta_Η,η=8
It is visible the letter Epsilon Ε,ε=5
It is visible the letter Eta Η,η=8
The Tomb of Honorius
The ancient citizens of Serdica hardly had imagined, while closing the Honorius’ Tomb, that after more than 15 centuries it will be opened again and hundreds of visitors from all over the world would go down a spiral staircase in order to look inside.
Indeed, each year hundreds of visitors go to see “Tomb No. 2”, known as the “Honorius’ Tomb”. The most remarkable feature is an inscription inside that tells the name of the tomb’s owner. It is made perhaps in the very last moment, because the painter had begun to write the letters without first measuring the available space, and then of course the space was too small, so he couldn’t fit all the letters, but still one can clearly read:
In orange are marked the excising letters;
In translation: † HONORIUS SERVANT OF CHRIST * Glory to the FATHER * the SON * and the HOLY SPIRIT
But who is this Honorius? Regrettably, apart from the name nothing else is known. But let’s do some guesswork, because there are many clues:
In the tomb had been found a bronze coin with the face of the emperor Justine I, who started his reign in 518 AD. In this case we can safely assume that Honorius had lived at the end of 5th and beginning of the 6th century. That had been an interesting time when Serdica was a bustling city on the way between Rome and Constantinople.
THE HONORIUS’ TOMB IS EXPENSIVE
It is large (2.00x2.50x1.70m) made out of bricks with vaulted ceiling, from the outside covered with plaster, from the inside covered with paintings. It is also an individual, not a family tomb, unlike the others around. The visitor may notice that there is a free space around that tomb, which is again uncommon for the area near the basilica, which is densely packed with tombs. Evidently, Honorius had been a figure of importance of the ancient society. It is likely that year after year people had gathered on this small “square” abound his tomb to remember their fellow citizen.
SMALL CROSS BEFORE THE NAME OF HONORIUS
The interior side of the walls is adorned with Latin crosses in bright red colour, surrounded by green plants such as weeping willow, ivy, and palm trees. Although modest this type of decoration expresses the Christian faith in The Atonement, Resurrection, and Eternal Life. But only the small cross in front of the name of Honorius is enough evidence to suggest that he must have been an important member of the Christian community in Serdica. Perhaps, Honorius had been a generous sponsor, or perhaps he had been a renown clergyman.
GREEK AND LATIN LANGUAGE
The guesswork can continue even further (with many speculations). Given the main role that Serdica played in the political life of the late Roman Empire, such a figure as Honorius may have had influence far beyond the walls of this city. Let’s go back to the inscription and notice that the first part is written in Greek while the second part is written in Latin. The use of the two major languages in the empire creates a cosmopolitan aura around this Honorius. Some theories suggest that he was a bishop and participated in the famous Church Council of 354 in Serdica and many emperors were coming to the city in order to seek his counsel.
In nowadays, Honorius plays a major role in the story that we tell about Ancient Serdica. Ever since his tomb had been discovered (2002), the people of Sofia gradually became fond of him and began to honor his memory as an unknown hero from a forgotten past.