BURSA – Anadolu Agency
An underwater Roman era basilica found only 20 meters off the shore of Lake İznik in the northwestern province of Bursa will be revived for tourism, as an “underwater museum” project at the site is underway, according to local authorities.
“We used to say that ‘the history of the basilica goes back 1,500 years but we retrieved coins that date back 1,800 years. Accordingly, we can say that the basilica is approximately 1800-1900 years old. The basilica that the Christian council gathered in is three meters below the water because of earthquakes,” Bursa Mayor Recep Altepe said during an inspection at the site with İznik Mayor Osman Sargın.
Altepe said the underwater archeological excavations have been ongoing around the site for nearly a year, noting the remnants of the sunken basilica from the Roman period were open to visit and they were planning to develop “the best underwater museum practice in the world.”
The project will be a valuable addition to both the district and the country in terms of tourism, he said.
İznik has been a capital of civilizations and it has great importance because of its rich history, he added.
Altepe said once the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality received a permit from the Culture and Tourism Ministry, he and the Archeology Department in Uludağ University (UÜ) promptly started their work at the site, which has been continuing for the past year.
Sand, soil and other materials found at the site can be carried to the shore with the newly built systems, he said.
Altepe highlighted that there were various cemeteries at the site where coins, tiles and mosaics could be found, adding: “The traces of the region are truly being resurfaced for the first time.”
“We will do what is necessary for this historical site dating back 2,000 years to be visited. The basilica remnants, which are of great importance to Christendom and İznik, will be available for visitors to explore. The process is continuing at full speed. We want to build the world’s most beautiful underwater museum practice here. We are diligently working for this project that will add great importance to İznik and Turkey in terms of tourism.”