Archaeologists working at the site of an ancient church in Turkey believe they may have found a relic of the cross of Jesus.
The relic was discovered inside a stone chest that was unearthed from the ruins of Balatlar Church, a seventh-century building in Sinop, Turkey, situated on the shores of the Black Sea.
“We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross,” lead archaeologist Gülgün Köro’lu told the Hurriyet Daily News.
She displayed a piece of the stone chest with a small cross carved into it to reporters at the site.
“This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far,” she said.
The chest has been taken to a laboratory for further study, NBC News reports.
The cross upon which Jesus was crucified has been the subject of much religious interest, as well as some controversy.
Numerous churches around the world claim to possess a small relic of the wooden cross, but the authenticity of the relics is doubted by critics.
Protestant theologian John Calvin, a famed 16th century sceptic of religious relics such as the so-called true cross, once remarked that “if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big shipload”.
Other purported Christian relics, including a 2,000-year-old ossuary embellished with obscure carvings that was first discovered in 1981, are also of disputed origins.
The ossuary, sometimes referred to as the “Jonah Ossuary” because one carving seems to show a fish swallowing a man (like Jonah, the biblical figure who was swallowed by a whale), was initially heralded as the earliest known Christian artifact.
Later analyses by classical and biblical scholars, however, revealed that many of the supposed Christian symbols were just random marks or decorative carvings that were misinterpreted.
Köro’lu’s team has been working at the Balatlar Church site since 2009.
Their archaeological dig had already yielded some surprises, including the discovery of more than 1,000 human skeletons.
The church, constructed in AD660, also has frescoes on its walls depicting Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles.
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