- Mustafa Şahin/Lake Iznik Excavation Archive
An archeologist has discovered a church dedicated to an ancient Christian saint in Turkey’s Lake Iznik, after seeing government-taken aerial photographs of the area.
Lake Iznik is in west Turkey – about two hours from Istanbul.
The local government is calling for the site to be made the country’s first underwater museum, Livescience reported.
If the plans are approved, the museum will open next year, with a bridge to the ruins, dive trips, and a glass room inside the underwater church where visitors can pray.
The archaeologist who discovered the church is Mustafa Şahin. Head of Archaeology at the nearby Bursa Uludağ University, he had been combing the area for ancient ruins for eight years.
By chance, government surveyors showed him aerial photos in 2014 depicting the outline of a Roman basilica out in the lake.
The church is submerged three metres below the surface, but Lake Iznik is often filled with algae that reduces visibility to just a few inches.
After conducting field studies, archaeologists said that the church sank in an earthquake some 1,600 years ago, when Istanbul (called Constantinople) was a major Roman city.
Divers found old coins and human graves dating from that time period and earlier.
Researchers also suspect that underneath the church is another, older temple. Old coins and records of the area’s buildings indicate it could be a pagan temple to the Greek god Apollo, dating back to the second century.