Underwater basilica in Turkey's İznik to open for visits

Underwater basilica in Turkey's İznik to open for visits

BURSA – Anadolu Agency
Underwater basilica in Turkeys İznik to open for visits

DHA photo

An underwater Roman-era basilica that was discovered just 20 meters off the shore of Lake İznik in the northwestern province of Bursa in 2014 is set to be open to visitors. 

“Since the doors are closed all the time, people are curious about what is happening there. In order to satisfy their curiosity, we will organize a public day on the first and third Saturday of every month,” Bursa Uludağ University Head of Archaeology Department Professor Mustafa Şahin said.

“We will explain to visitors what we are doing during these public days. The basilica in the lake will be visited by people twice a month,” said Şahin, the head of the archaeological works on the site.

According to a written statement released by İznik Municipality, District Gov. Ali Hamza Pehlivan, Mayor Osman Sargın and İznik Museum Director Haydar Kalsen recently examined the ongoing works around the basilica. 

Şahin said the basilica was established with the name of St. Neophytos, who was a devout, 16-year-old Christian who was killed by Roman soldiers on the coast of the Lake İznik in 303, 10 years before the Edict of Milan, a proclamation that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire. 

Works on the basilica started six months ago, Şahin said.

Archaeologists, historians and art historians who are working on the church, believe that the structure collapsed during an earthquake that occurred in the region in 740, leading to its submersion in Lake İznik.

Surface and underwater works have been conducted on the basilica in order to open the structure up for tourism. A salvage and maritime construction team conducted 10 days of surface surveys on the basilica underwater last year.

The discovery of the basilica was named as one of top 10 discoveries of 2014 by the Archaeological Institute of America.