Dive the sunken basilica of Nicaea

The ancient early Christian basilica that sank into Nicaea’s Lake Ascanius (modern-day Lake Iznik) in the 8th century has opened as an underwater archaeological museum for visitors to explore using specialized diving equipment.

The basilica was spotted during an aerial photography survey of Iznik in early 2014. The mission was to make a thorough inventory of the historical sites in the city, and the structure in the lake with its unmistakable basilica floorplan was clearly visible from above.

The church, built in the 4th century, was dedicated to Saint Neophytos who had been martyred in 303 A.D., just 10 years before the Edict of Milan proclaiming religious toleration in the Roman Empire was issued by emperors Constantine and Licinius. It was built on the shore of Lake Ascanius on the spot where he was said to have been killed.

The basilica became a site of pilgrimage in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, but it was felled by a catastrophic earthquake that devastated Nicaea in 740 A.D. Since its rediscovery, underwater archaeologists have been excavating the site and have found evidence of visitors from distant lands — a memorial stamp of the Scottish knights who are believed to have been the first foreign pilgrims to the church of Saint Neophytos — as well as artifacts predating the construction of the basilica. Coins from the reign of  emperor Antoninus Pius (r. 138-161 A.D.) indicate the site may have had a pre-Christian temple or public building (like, oh, say, a basilica whose basic architectural plan formed the core of the Christian churches that took their name).


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Comment by Sven Il Maginifico
2019-11-09 13:23:34

Did I miss the mentioned medieval ‘memorial stamp‘? :confused:

Apparently those ‘Scottish knights’ were in, what later was turned into Turkey, before 740AD. By the end of the 4th century, Christianity set in, was driven down, and then reintroduced when the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata was founded on the west coast of Scotland in the 6th century. Irish missionaries introduced the previously pagan Picts to Celtic Christianity, and notably they did the same on the Continent.

The Chrysopolitissa Church in Paphos (Saint Kyriaki church) in Cyprus is built within similar remains of a greater church, and obviously a bunch of kittens lived there, when I visited the place a few years ago. There is a plaque commemorating Eric I of Denmark, who died there on his way on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1103AD. Apparently, Eric had been in Constantinople, fell ill and seemingly had reasons to sail to Cyprus.

Comment by Scott Glen Young
2019-11-09 14:23:59

Was it here that Nicolas slapped Arius?

Comment by Sven Il Magnifico
2019-11-10 00:35:24

It is indeed (cf. ‘First Council of Nicaea’ or Νίκαια). The ‘Libyan’ (i.e. African) presbyter Arian (Ἄρειος) from Alexandria took indeed part. Arianism prevailed among the Goths and Vandals until the beginning of the eighth century, when these kingdoms succumbed to their Nicean neighbors or accepted Nicean Christianity. Those Arians also continued to exist in North Africa, Spain and portions of Italy, until finally suppressed during the sixth and seventh centuries.

In what today is Istanbul (“εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” / is tan polin) –in Hagia Sophia / Αγία Σοφία (built in 360AD)– a Viking runic inscription was discovered in 1964 on a parapet on the top floor of the southern gallery (‘Halfdan was here’). King Erik I, however, traveled via what today is Russia, i.e. on the old Viking route to Constantinople, as possibly the Scottish knights had done earlier, i.e. at least if they had Viking connections :skull:

Comment by Drungarius
2019-11-10 10:42:43

The current building of Hagia Sophia was built during the reign of Justinian. I.e. almost 200 years later.

Comment by Sven Il Magnifico
2019-11-10 14:45:33

Indeed, … :eek:

360AD is either simply wrong or a previous building, and as I was there myself, I had actually the 6th century in mind.

Having looked it up now, the current building was seemingly started in 537.

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May 2022


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