An ancient underwater church that has been submerged beneath a Turkish lake for more than 1,600 years is finally visible following lockdown.
With water pollution having cleared up, striking images taken from above show the Roman-style church – known as a basilica – beneath the now perfectly clear waters of Lake Iznik, a body of water located in the north-western region of Turkey.
The pictures were taken after the local authority flew a drone over the lake, and show the walls and structure in stunning detail. The ruins are usually hidden beneath a film of algae.
Fascinatingly, the ruins were only discovered back in 2014. An early example of Christian architecture, this was regarded as one of the top 10 discoveries of the year by the Archaeological Institute of America.
Archaeologists think the basilica was built by the shore at around 390 AD, when Istanbul was called Constantinople and regarded as the eastern centre of the Roman Empire.
According to , the church was destroyed by an earthquake in 740 AD, with the ruins sinking beneath the surface of the lake, waiting to be rediscovered.
Head of Archaeology Department at Uludag University, Professor Mustafa Şahin, told
When I first saw the images of the lake, I was quite surprised to see a church structure that clearly. I was doing field surveys in Iznik [since 2006], and I hadn’t discovered such a magnificent structure like that.
Experts believe the Byzantine-era basilica was built in honour of St. Neophytos, a saint and martyr who lived during the time of the Roman emperors Diocletian and Galerius.
Neophytos died at the hands of Roman soldiers in 303 AD, just one decade before an official proclamation was brought in to ensure religious tolerance for Christians living within the Roman Empire. Şahin believes the church was built at the very same spot where Neophytos met his end.
In yet another intriguing turn of events, archaeologists now believe the basilica could well hold further surprising secrets. It’s thought it could well have been built upon a pagan temple to Apollo, a Greek and Roman sun god.
As per , researchers have found a very old lamp and some ancient coins at the site, dating back to the reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius. This would indicate another fascinating – and even older – structure buried under the basilica.