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Remains of large Byzantine church unearthed in Pisidia

A large church in the ancient city of Pisidian Antioch, located in the southern Turkish province of Isparta, has finally been unearthed after three years of work. The church, built in the sixth century, is believed to have been destroyed during a fire in the 11th or 12th century.

Remains of large Byzantine church unearthed in Pisidia
Remains of large Byzantine church unearthed in Pisidia
Excavation of the sixth century Byzantine church at Pisidia [Credit: AA]
The head of the Pisidia excavations, Süleyman Demirel University Archaeology Department’s Professor Mehmet Özhanlı, expressed hopes that what remained of the church would help them acquire a clearer idea of the history of the area.

“We believe that it was a big fire that destroyed the church,” Özhanlı said. “Conservation works are still continuing on the surviving walls of the church.”

Özhanlı said the church was the third largest church in the ancient city and that it was constructed in the sixth century.

Özhanlı said they had started this year’s works in July and would continue working until December. He also noted that they could work in one only field because of a lack of funds.

“It was such a big fire and continued for so long time that the stones inside the church exploded because of excessive heat,” said the archaeologist.

“We discovered that before the fire, the marble on the ground was removed and used as lime after being melted. A Seljuk coin that we found in a layer of fire in the northern part of the church boosts the idea that the church was burned in the 11th or 12th century. It may not be possible to glean this result from a small coin but our other observations make us think that the church was destroyed in those centuries,” Özhanlı said.

The church was built on a temple that was built during the Antonine era. The four churches that have been discovered in Pisidia so far show that the city was an important Christian centre, visited by Paul the Apostle. In about 640 the city was raised to the status of 'metropolitan see'.

The professor added that the fourth church in the ancient city, which was also discovered in 2013, was completely unearthed during recent works.

In the 11th century, Pisidia was captured by the Seljuk Turks. The ancient city frequently changed hands between the Byzantine Greeks and the Turks until 1176, when the latter established permanent control.

Source: DHA [October 15, 2016]

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