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Church that was 'site of some of Christianity's most important events' discovered under lake in Turkey

Mirror logo Mirror 17/09/2018 Elaine McCahill

a view of a mountain: One of the most important places in Christian history may have been discovered by accident, after aerial photography revealed a church beneath a lake near the Roman city of Nicaea

One of the most important places in Christian history may have been discovered by accident, after aerial photography revealed a church beneath a lake near the Roman city of Nicaea
© Credit: Pen News
Scientists have announced the discovery of an ancient church where some of Christianity's most important events are believed to have taken place.

The ancient Roman ruins were found underneath the surface of a lake in Iznik, Turkey.

This particular site may be the ancient Basilica of the city of Nicaea, now Iznik, which is one of Christianity's most historic sites.

It is the place where the First Council of Nicaea was held in 325 AD and the Church officially decided on the nature of the relationship between Jesus and God.

Archaeologist Mustafa Şahin, head of archaeology at Bursa Uludağ University, has spent years searching for this once sacred place on the shores of Lake Isnik.

It was only when the government of Bursa province commissioned aerial pictures of the lake that Mustafa found what he had been looking for all that time.

“The photography team in Bursa City Hall have been capturing the aerial photos of the Lake since 2013, but hadn’t thought of contacting any expert,” said Dr Şahin.

“So when they started capturing aerial pictures of the lake again, team member Saffet Yilmaz contacted me and asked if the remains of the structure might have meant something.

“When I first saw the images of the lake, I was quite surprised to see a church structure that clearly.

“I’d been doing field surveys in Iznik since 2006 and hadn’t yet discovered a magnificent structure like that.”

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Dr Şahin believes the church was built in honour of Saint Neophytos who was martyred at that spot in 303AD.

It could also be the place where the First Council of Nicaea was held almost 1700 years ago.

The church was destroyed in an earthquake in 740AD and later sank into the lake.

“The ruins remain two to three metres deep in the lake and 50 metres from the shore,” said Dr Şahin.

“The hardest part of the underwater excavation is that visibility sometimes drops under 10cm because of intense algae and plankton activity.

“Another special difficulty is slime being spreading throughout the water from the top of the lake’s base during the excavation.

“Having the remains on a shallow surface also means the waves hitting archaeologists during their work, which affects work negatively.”

Dr Şahin is hoping the site can become an underwater museum.

Visitors could dive to see the ruin up close but there are also plans to construct a 20-metre tower to allow the ruins to be seen from the shore.

A walkway over the lake may also be built as well as a submerged glass room where people could pray.

The First Council of Nicaea set a date for Easter, and created the Nicene Creed, which is still used in Catholic Mass.

The Council was also held to decide whether Jesus was 'begotten' by God from his own being or if he was created from nothing.

Those at the meeting voted overwhelming in favour of Jesus having been 'begotten' meaning he had no beginning.

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