Excavations unveil Erdek’s archeopark island museum
BALIKESİR - Anatolia News Agency
A new archeopark island museum is set to open in Erdek. The Mother Mary church in Zeytinliada, known in ancient sources “the greatest church in the world,” has been undergoing excavation works. AA photoThe Mother Mary church, located in the modern of village of Zeytinliada near Erdek and known in ancient sources as “the greatest church in the world,” has been undergoing excavation since 2006, and will soon open to tourists as a new archeopark.
The project began, with the support of the Culture Ministry, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums and Erdek Municipality, in 2006, said Nurettin Öztürk, an assistant professor at Erzurum’s Atatürk University and the head of the excavation.
“In the excavation of the site called the East Church, it took three years to unearth the church itself,” said Öztürk. The team has been digging at the site of an adjacent monastery for the past three years.
“The church was located in the monastery complex, and also served as a baptistery church. Both belong to the early Byzantine era. The story of the construction of the church is very similar to that of the Hagia Sophia, dating back to 532-537 A.D.,” Öztürk said. “At that time, the local citizens rose up in protest against the high taxes imposed by the empire. The revolt had to be quashed, and at the direction of the emperor, the citizens were gathered in the hippodrome and 30,000 people were slaughtered and burned. The rebellion was suppressed, and it is known as the ‘Nika Rebellion.’ The empire wanted to create the world’s largest dome in memory of its victory over the rebellion, and that is how the Hagia Sophia came to be built.”
Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay visited the site, and recommended the construction of an archeopark in the district, Öztürk said.
Ancient sources on the district
The plan of the church’s construction is typical of Orthodox Church architecture. “The pool of the baptistery is different from others: It is two meters long, made of marble, and carved with a unique design. These features make it unique. In those times, young adults were also baptized,” Öztürk said.
Visitors began to come to the site even before it was advertised, Öztürk said. When it is officially introduced to the public, there is no doubt that foreign tourists will flock to the place. “We have come across many tombs in the area. In the ancient sources, this church is called the greatest church in the world. The floor and the ceiling are gilded,” Öztürk said. The island was a pilgrimage site, and could be that again for Orthodox Christians, he added.