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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Relics Discovered in 5th Cent. Church on St. Ivan Island

July 28, 2010

Excavations on Saint Ivan island, the largest of five Bulgarian islands in the Black Sea, have unearthed an exquisite marble reliquary incorporated into the church's altar, the historian Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National History Museum and minister without portfolio in charge of Bulgarians abroad, told Focus news agency on July 28 2010.

He suggested that the reliquary might hold the relics of John the Baptist.
Once the island was converted to Christianity, a monastical complex was built between the 5th-6th century on top of the ruins of the old Roman temple, including the Basilica of the Mother of God. Around the 7th-9th century, the basilica was abandoned only to be reconstructed in the 10th century.

The Monastery of John the Forerunner and the Baptist grew into an important centre of Christianity in the region. Archaeological research was carried out after 1985 for a a period of two years, which revealed a royal residence, a library, part of the fortified wall with the gate and several monastic cells.

Kazimir Popkonstantinov, an archaeologist professor is overseeing the excavation on the island. Dimitrov said that the reliquary will be opened for the media in a few days after the "necessary religious ceremonies are carried out".

St. Ivan is the largest Bulgarian island in the Black Sea, with an area of 0.66 square kilometres just off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast near Sozopol, a town rich in history and a popular tourist destination, and is separated by a strait several hundred metres long from the small neighbouring St. Peter Island. It is 920m from the Stolets peninsula, the location of Sozopol's Old Town.


Excavations on the island of Saint Ivan, one of five islands in Bulgarian territorial waters in the Black Sea, have unearthed an exquisite marble reliquary built into the center of the church’s altar, the historian Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National Museum of History and minister in charge of Bulgarians abroad, told FOCUS News Agency.

The archeologist professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov is managing the expedition on the island, which lies close to the town of Sozopol. Bozhidar Dimitrov says the reliquary will be opened before journalists in a few days after the necessary religious ceremonies are carried out and the necessary conditions are created.
He suggested that the reliquary might hold the relics of John the Baptist.


“The reliquary found on St. Ivan Island is the first to be discovered within archaeological environment in the entire Southern Black Sea coast. Up to now, we knew about only one reliquary, found in the town of Pomorie in the beginning of the previous century and it is now exposed in the Byzantine Museum in Athens. This is interesting and important,” said Professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov, head of the archaeological mission on St. Ivan Island, in interview to FOCUS News Agency.

A reliquary with the relics of a saint was found on Wednesday during the study of the sanctuary section of the temple, which dates back to the early Byzantine era of the V century and not the temple of St. John the Baptist. The reliquary is always placed under the pillar on the alter table.

“The reliquary shelters relics – mainly of a saint whom the temple has been built for. Unfortunately, in the concrete case we do not know whom these relics belong to. However, if the temple dates back to the V century and the rest of the evidence, we may conclude that it has been dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Anyway, we cannot speak for certain before we open the reliquary,” the professor said.

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