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Ancient Byzantine church unearthed in İstanbul

J-P Mauro - published on 07/08/20

1,500 years of history are just waiting to be discovered underfoot.

In the 1930s Constantinople’s name was changed to İstanbul, but the city’s rich heritage is ever-present in the countless ruins routinely discovered during construction work. Now an ancient Byzantine church containing a water spring and early artworks has been discovered under a building that was undergoing renovations.

Greek Reports relates that the site is located on Amiral Tadfil Street, which was near city’s center when it was known as Constantinople. This area was previously excavated in the late 1990s, but apparently a trove of Christian history and art went unnoticed. Discovered under the building were several chambers that are believed to have once been part of a place of worship.


Read more:
1,600-year-old basilica found underwater in what was ancient Nicaea

In the first chamber experts were thrilled to find floor mosaics estimated to be up to 1,500 years old. Photographs of the mosaics, in the video featured above, show clear images formed with different colored stones. Although the images are a bit too worn to be identified, they are obviously decorative and suggest that the site was linked to wealth. Greek Reporter posits that the site may have been in the vicinity of the Great Palace of Constantinople.

Below the mosaic-clad floors is a second chamber believed to have been a Byzantine church. Decorated with a marble slab, which could have served as an altar, the room includes a spring that would have been used for cleansing rituals and baptisms. On the wall above the font is a fresco, the image of which is just barely recognizable as the Blessed Mother with the Christ Child, with illegible text surrounding her.

Little more is known of the church, which has yet to be identified by name. It is not open to the public, as it is beneath privately owned property, but more photos of the site can be explored here. We look forward to further discoveries as the excavation continues.

Make sure to visit the slideshow below to discover a precious collection of ancient Byzantine mosaics. 

ArchaeologyEastern ChristianIstanbul
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