Undoubtedly, one of the most impressive preserved Roman Empire era buildings in Bulgaria is Villa Armira. The landmark is located only 4 kilometers away from the town of Ivaylovgrad. After two years of restoration the tourist attraction is expected to be open to visitors again very soon – in July 2023. For certain the unique home built in the 1st century AD is worth a visit. Here’s why the villa has to be a part of your next trip in Bulgaria.
Villa Armira was originally built by a Thracian noble or king in the second half of the 1st century AD. The villa was actually part of a landed tenure. During the next 4 centuries when it was inhabited, the villa was expanded and decorated many times and today it is said to be the richest private palace from Roman times. The impressive two-story building occupies an area of over 2,100 square meters, has a panoramic terrace, and, in addition to the bedrooms for the hosts, also has a reception room, a banquet hall, guest rooms, work rooms, and a private bathroom. The expansions over the centuries increased the area of the villa by nearly a third.
The Gorgon Medusa was a symbol of protection for the rich Roman villa
Today the building amazes with its uniquely decorated capitals and mosaics. To survive for nearly 2000 years, Villa Armira also relied on the Gorgon Medusa, who protected the ancient Roman villa and its inhabitants from evil eyes and misfortunes. Among the most interesting artifacts for the visitors are the mosaic image of the Gorgon Medusa as well as the stone jellyfish heads at the bottom of the pool.
Villa Armira has 22 richly decorated rooms. The pool is located on the first floor, in the center of the building. It measures 7 by 11 meters and is 1.60 meters deep. Its floor was covered by a mosaic, and the walls with white marble.
The floors of the surrounding rooms are decorated with mosaics with floral and geometric motifs. Among the recurring symbols is the swastika, a symbol meant to bring wealth and prosperity to a family. The entire first floor was clad in perfectly cut marble slabs and panels, covering the walls of all corridors, rooms, and pool. Undoubtedly, the most interesting mosaic is the one with the images of the owner and his two children – a boy and a girl. The mosaic is located in the bedroom of the rich family, and it is the only preserved portrait on a mosaic from the Roman era found in Bulgaria.
On the first floor there were also the banquet hall, the master’s reception room, several bedrooms, a Roman-style bathroom, and other living quarters. The second floor was reserved for more bedrooms and the women’s work quarters. The villa’s floors were raised on evenly spaced ceramic tubes, between which warm air circulated from purpose-built furnaces, creating heated floors.
he rich decoration upon the walls of the villa can be traced to a 2nd century art studio created near Villa Armira. There white marble was quarried and processed, and craftsmen from Aphrodisia in Asia Minor, a city known for being the home of the largest sculpture school in the world during the Roman era, were invited to come and train. The life of Villa Armira ends ingloriously. In the second half of the fourth century, the private Roman palace was burned and looted. It was later razed to the ground by a devastating earthquake. In 1965 the villa was restored to its former glory and reopened for posterity.