Archaeologists uncover one of oldest churches in Turkey

What's believed to be one of the earliest churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, has been discovered during an archaeological dig in the Black Sea province of Karabük's Eskipazar district.

The excavation at the ancient city of Hadrianapolis, which now lies buried beneath Eskipazar, 160km north of Ankara, has uncovered a 1,500-year-old structure which could unlock secrets to monasteries thought to have existed in the town.

An archaeologist works on another dig, this time in Israel.(Nikki Davidov/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Ersin Çelikbaş, a member of Karabük University's archaeology department, said the structure is believed to be one of the oldest churches in Anatolia, modern-day Turkey, and is decorated with images of the rivers of Geon, Phison, Tigris and Euphrates, which are mentioned in the Bible.

'The find dates back to the mid 5th century. When we take into consideration church architectures in Anatolia, we can say that this one is one of the earliest churches in Anatolia,' he said.

'Ancient resources on Saint Stylos Alpius mention the existence of a men's monastery and women's monastery belonging to him in Eskipazar. In our works, we have a big opportunity to detect the existence of these monasteries or churches. The church is in a very important location. It is nearly 20 metres in length and has significant floor coverings.'

The city was very important for the Christian world, he said. 'We know very well that the Christians arrived in the Amasra harbor during this era and visited Hadrianapolis. Later, they went to Istanbul for commercial purposes.'

Hadrianapolis is the most important archaeological city in the western Black Sea region, Çelikbaş added and digs there first began in 2003.

So far archaeological surface surveys have uncovered 14 public buildings including two baths, two churches, a defence structure, rock tombs, a theatre, a villa and other monumental buildings and some religious buildings.