This year’s excavations in the ancient city of Pisidia Antiocheia have unearthed a church that was discovered last year, bringing to four the number of Christian religious centres that have been discovered so far at the site
“The walls are completely covered with frescoes and there are many geometrical shapes featuring the symbols of Christianity,” said the head of the excavations, Professor Mehmet Ozhanlı. He continued by stating that “we believe that the ancient city, which is made up of seven neighborhoods, is home to seven churches. It shows us that Pisidia Antiocheia, which played a significant role in the growth of Christianity, was a religious centre.
The whole of the church floor is covered with marble plaques called ‘Opis Sectila.’ Colourful marble was used in the main apses. It is definite that the church survived until the 12th century just like the ancient city. The church was built on a temple that was built in the Antonine era. The four churches so far discovered show that there were attempts to make the Roman-era Antiocheia a religious city. The city was divided into neighbourhoods. The four churches that were found in the northern part and the Saint Paul Church had a capacity of 300 people, while the other three had a capacity of at least 150 people.”
Ozhanli said they had also found a stone tablet in the church. “It is known that there was a Tiberius Square here. But this tablet made us think that there was another square called Augustus Square. The tablet says ‘place of gathering for God’ in Latin. Also, the discovery of six tombs inside the church verifies that the churches served as necropolis during this era.”
The professor said long-term excavations had also provided them information about the history of the ancient city while simultaneously lamenting the lack of remains in the ground.
At nearly two meters deep the foundations of the structures were protected. However, in the details, it is possible to see the city’s magnificence since Antiocheia was a significant city in the Hellenistic era, the capital of colonization in the Roman era and it turned into a metropolis with Christianity.
Among the artefacts unearthed during the excavations was a naked sculpture of Aphrodite, said Ozhanli, adding that many bone artefacts implied that the city had bone ateliers.
In addition to being a religious centre, the ancient city also served as a military base, the professor said. “We see that the ancient city was developed by metal craftsmen. It is maybe because this place was used as a military post. The pieces of weapons, metal parts used in architectural structures and materials used for horses depict this.”