Bulgarian media has reported that the excavations at St Ivan island off the Bulgarian coast have unearthed relics belonging to Saint John the Baptist. The discoveries were announced on August 1 2010 following the excavation on the island near the seaside town of Sozopol.
Last week it was reported that excavations on St Ivan island, the largest of five Bulgarian islands in the Black Sea, discovered artefacts and exquisite marble reliquary incorporated into the church’s altar, the historian Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National History Museum and minister without portfolio in charge of Bulgarians abroad, told Focus news agency.
It was subsequently revealed that the archaeologists found an exquisite reliquary – a relic urn – built in the altar of an ancient church bearing the name of St. John the Baptist. The urn, which was opened on August 1, contained small bones from the arm and leg of the saint, the archaeologists told Bulgarian media.
The reliquary was shaped as a sarcophagus and was discovered by the team of Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov. He said that it was very likely for the reliquary to contain relics of John the Baptist.
Once the island was converted to Christianity, a monastical complex was built between the 5th-6th century on top of the ruins of the old Roman temple, including the Basilica of the Mother of God. Around the 7th-9th century, the basilica was abandoned only to be reconstructed in the 10th century.
The Monastery of John the Forerunner and the Baptist grew into an important centre of Christianity in the region. Archaeological research was carried out after 1985 for a a period of two years, which revealed a royal residence, a library, part of the fortified wall with the gate and several monastic cells.
St. Ivan is the largest Bulgarian island in the Black Sea, with an area of 0.66 square kilometres, just off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast near Sozopol, a town rich in history and a popular tourist destination, and is separated by a strait several hundred metres long from the small neighbouring St. Peter Island. It is 920m from the Stolets peninsula, the location of Sozopol's Old Town.