Archaeologists Have Discovered The Submerged Ruins Of Ancient Church Where First Council Of Nicaea Was Held

The church where Constantine I ordered the First Council of Nicaea to be held has been discovered submerged in Turkey's Lake Iznik and is held to be 'one of Christianity's most important places'.

The submerged church where the First Council of Nicaea was held has been discovered in Turkey.
Aivita Arika / Shutterstock

The church where Constantine I ordered the First Council of Nicaea to be held has been discovered submerged in Turkey's Lake Iznik and is held to be 'one of Christianity's most important places'.

In the modern day town of Iznik in Turkey, archaeologists have just made the find of a lifetime after discovering the submerged ruins of the ancient church where the the First Council of Nicaea was held. This church has been called “one of Christianity’s most important places,” and was only spotted after the Turkish government captured aerial photographs of the area.

In 325 AD, the First Council of Nicaea congregated inside this church in Turkey which was, at the time, part of the Roman Empire. Constantine I, who was the first Roman emperor to champion Christianity and fully convert, set up the meeting of this council so that the tenets of Christianity could finally be agreed upon and important dates like the celebration of Easter could be set, as the Daily Mail reported.

Archaeologist Dr. Mustafa Şahin has dedicated a large portion of his life to searching the area around Lake Iznik, formerly known as Lake Ascanius in Roman times, to hunt for this site. However, it wasn’t until the government ordered aerial photographs of the lake that the remains of the church were finally and miraculously spotted.

“The photography team in Bursa City Hall have been capturing the aerial photos of the Lake since 2013, but hadn’t thought of contacting any expert. So when they started capturing aerial pictures of the lake again, team member Saffet Yilmaz contacted me and asked if the remains of the structure might have meant something,” according to Dr. Şahin.

Fortunately for Dr. Şahin and history, the government eventually contacted the archaeologist and he realized at once that he was looking at something quite extraordinary in the lake.

“When I first saw the images of the lake, I was quite surprised to see a church structure that clearly. I’d been doing field surveys in Iznik since 2006 and hadn’t yet discovered a magnificent structure like that.”

Dr. Şahin is convinced that this is the site where the First Council of Nicaea took place, and in this meeting it was finally agreed upon whether Jesus was created out of nothing or whether he was “begotten” by God. As Constantine I had hoped, the council agreed that Jesus was indeed begotten by God, which is one of the hallmarks of Christianity.

The Nicene Creed was also formed here along Lake Iznik in Turkey, which Catholics everywhere will recognize the conclusion of immediately.

“And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.”

When an earthquake struck in 740 CE, this church finally crumbled and slid into the lake and was only discovered again by chance. Dr. Şahin notes that while excavation of the church is currently underway, the work has had its share of difficulties, particularly due to the extreme amounts of plankton and algae underwater.

“The ruins remain two to three meters deep in the lake and 50 meters from the shore. The hardest part of the underwater excavation is that visibility sometimes drops under 10cm because of intense algae and plankton activity. Another special difficulty is slime being spreading throughout the water from the top of the lake’s base during the excavation.”

  Kagan Kaya / Shutterstock

For those who are interested in viewing where the First Council of Nicaea was held, after excavation work is fully completed Dr Şahin would like to make this sacred site of Christianity into Turkey’s very first underwater museum.