After years of searching, archaeologists believe they have found the sunken remains of the church where the historic First Council of Nicaea was held in 325 A.D.
The First Council of Nicaea was called to assemble by Constantine I, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Over three hundred bishops from across the world gathered on the shores of Lake Ascanius to settle the nature of the relationship between God and Jesus Christ.
Archaeologist Mustafa Şahin from Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey has scoured the shores of modern-day Lake Iznik searching for relics from the early Church. When the local Bursa government commissioned aerial photos of the lake, Şahin spotted submerged ruins of a church.
“When they started capturing aerial pictures of the lake again, team member Saffet Yilmaz contacted me and asked if the remains of the structure might have meant something.”
Dr. Şahin believes the church was constructed to honor the location where Saint Neophytus was martyred in 303 A.D. He also believes it to be the location where the Council of Nicaea was held over 1,700 years ago.
“I did research on Iznik lake since 2006. This magnificent structure was discovered for the first time. When I saw the ruins of which are clearly visible in the waters of the lake, I was amazed.”
In 740 A.D., the church was destroyed by an earthquake and sank beneath the lake. Dr. Şahin hopes that with the support of local officials the ruins will become Turkey’s first underwater archaeological Museum.
The museum would include a 66 foot tower allowing the ruins to be seen from the shore, a walkway over the lake itself, and a submerged glass room at the nave where visitors can pray. There would also be a diving club, allowing visitors to see the structure up close.
Construction could begin as early as this year, with the museum ready to open in 2019.
“There is actually no need to wait for the end of excavation to built a museum. With our excavation methodology, the visitors aren’t a distraction for the work in progress.”