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Turkish archaeologists unearth 1,500-year-old church

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For centuries, the church and monasteries remained buried. Until now.

For years, St. Alypius lived on top of a pillar, fasted and preached. He was one of several “stylites,” or pillar dwellers, throughout the ancient Christian world.

But for centuries, the church and monasteries he built have remained buried. Until now.

A Turkish archaeologist named Ersin Çelikbaş, a member of Karabük University’s archaeology department, led a team that reportedly discovered a 1,500-year-old structure believed to be one of the earliest churches in Anatolia, according to the Turkish media outlet Hurriyet Daily News. Çelikbaş has been carrying out excavations in the ancient city of Hadrianapolis in the Black Sea province of Karabük’s Eskipazar district.

Çelikbaş said that the church is located on a pilgrimage route. “We can say that this one is one of the earliest churches in Anatolia,” he said.

According to Serbian Orthodox St. Nikolai Velimirovic, St. Alypius, referred to in news reports as St. Alpius, was born in Hadrianopolis. He served as a deacon with Bishop Theodore there, but desired a life of solitude, prayer and meditation, so he Alypius withdrew to a Greek cemetery outside the city.

This was a cemetery from which people fled in terror, because of frequent demonic visions seen there. Alypius set up a cross in the cemetery and built a church in honor of St. Euphemia, who had appeared to him in a dream. Beside the church, he built a tall pillar, climbed on top of it, and spent 53 years there in fasting and prayer. Neither the mockery of men nor the evil of the demons was able to drive him away or cause him to waver in his intention. Alypius especially endured countless assaults from demons. Not only did the demons try to terrorize him with apparitions, but stoned him as well, and gave him no peace, day or night, for a long time. The courageous Alypius protected himself from the power of the demons by the sign of the Cross and the name of Jesus. Finally the demons were defeated and fled from him. Men began to revere him and come to him for prayer, consolation, instruction and healing.

In time, two monasteries were built beside his pillar, the story continues. His mother and sister lived in the women’s monastery. St. Alypius guided the monks and nuns from his pillar. He died in the year 640, at the age of 118. His head is preserved in the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Greek monastic island of Mount Athos.



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