Archaeologists believe they may have discovered one of the oldest churches in Turkey. The structure was unearthed as part of an archaeological study of the ancient city of Hadrianopolis in the Black Sea province of Karabük.
Researchers believe that the church dates back 1,500 years to the 5th century and was part of the ancient city which was prominent among early Christian pilgrims.
Situated in Anatolia, most of which is currently considered modern-day Turkey, the church may be one of the earliest religious structures of the time.
"The find dates back to the mid-fifth century. When we take into consideration church architectures in Anatolia, we can say that this one is one of the earliest churches in Anatolia," Ersin Çelikbaş, a member of Karabük University's archaeology department said of the discovery. "Ancient resources on Saint Stylos Alpius mention the existence of a men's monastery and women's monastery belonging to him in Eskipazar. In our works, we have a big opportunity to detect the existence of these monasteries or churches. The church is in a very important location. It is nearly 20 meters in length and has significant floor coverings."
These include the depiction of a bull figure above a row of plants. "The resulting architectural structure shows how well the church has a very good workmanship and artistic sense," the assistant professor stated.
The city of Hadrianopolis (named after the Roman Emperor Hadrian) was of special importance until its fall in the 8th century.
"This place was a big ancient city after the fourth century. Stylos Alpius was born here and died here. So this city is very important for the Christian world. We know very well that the Christians arrived in the Amasra harbour during this era and visited Hadrianapolis. Later, they went to Istanbul for commercial purposes," Çelikbaş added.
Who was Stylos Alpius?
Stylos Alpius or Saint Alypius the Stylite was an ascetic saint responsible for building the Church of St. Euphemia in Hadrianopolis. He erected a pillar beside the building, and lived atop it, spending most of his adult life preaching, fasting and praying.
He was part of a group of 'pillar saints' known as stylites who spent most of their lives practicing and preaching Christianity from on top of pillars.
Following his death at the age of 118, Alpius' relics were interred in the church he built. His head, however, is preserved in the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Mount Athos.
Excavations of the recently discovered Anatolian church will continue under the inspection of Kastamonu Museum.
The research team have also uncovered four other structures, including another church, two baths and a villa.
"There are not many archaeological studies in and around Karabük. The fact that we have done this is, in fact, a very important milestone in the uncovering of the history of Karabük and its environs, especially in illuminating the history of the whole Western Black Sea Region. We continue to work with this consciousness," Çelikbaş told the Kulliye Karabük.