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Archaeologists Believe John the Baptist Relics Come from Constantinople

Date: 03.08.2010

Bulgaria's Minister without Portfolio has stated that the relics of Saint John the Baptist, found in the Bulgaria's southern Black sea town of Sozopol, were probably donated by Constantinople.

“We suppose that in ancient times, someone from the Patriarchate of Constantinople has donated part of the holy relics to the monastery St. John the Forerunner,” Minister Bozhidar Dimitrov said Sunday, adding that the archaeological interest towards the Sv. Ivan island dates back to about 25 years ago.

Dimitrov participated in the official ceremony Sunday, which was attended also by a committee of specialists, MPs and journalists.

The archaeologists have announced that the relics of St. John the baptist include parts of an arm, heel, tooth and a facial bone.

The head of the archaeological team, Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov, has given the relics to the Bishop of Sliven, Joanikii, who is supposed to decide where the relics should be lying in state.

According to the Bulgarian Minister without Portfolio, the relics should be placed in the “ST. George” church near Sozopol.

On July 28, archaeologists investigating the Sv. Ivan (St. John) island off Sozopol found an exquisite reliquary – a relic urn – built in the altar of an ancient church bearing the name of St. John the Baptist.

The reliquary has the shape of a sarcophagus and was discovered by the team of Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov.

St. John the Baptist - called also the Forerunner - is an imposing figure in the Christian New Testament. He was the last to prophecize the coming of Jesus Christ - and the one to baptize the young Jesus in the river Jordan. The great prophet died a martyr's death beheaded by king Herod at the request of his daughter Salome.

According to the Bible, St. John the Forerunner prophesized about Christ thus: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and fire" (Matthew 3:11).

St. John the Baptist is especially venerated by the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. Over the centuries, there have been controversies about where his relics are located.

The town of Sozopol is one of the most ancient on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, dating from the Bronze age. It was colonized by Greeks, headed by philosopher Anaximander, around 610 BC. Sozopol became an early Christian centre with its own bishop. For most of the Middle Ages, it was part of the Byzantine empire.

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