By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
While conducting an excavation beneath a 5th century monastery on the Black Sea, Bulgarian archeologists unearthed an alabaster reliquary containing bones they believe may have belonged to St. John the Baptist.
CNN is reporting that the find was made last week on the Black Sea island of Sveti Ivan, a name meaning “St. John,” which is located just off the coast of Bulgaria’s seaside town of Sozopol. The jar, which contains bone fragments of a skull, a hand and a tooth, dates from the 5th century and is inscribed with the date of June 24 – the day the Church celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist.
Excavation leader Kazimir Popkonstantinov believes the date on the jar and its location under a monastery dedicated to the saint who baptized Jesus is convincing proof that the bones belong to St. John. However, further tests on the fragments will be carried out.
Meanwhile, the Vatican’s Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, told CNN that the commission “will wait until a more thorough study has been conducted, including anthropological analysis, before it will express an opinion on the finding.”
He added that there are thousands of alleged relics of John the Baptist scattered around the world.
One of those places is the Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul, Turkey, which also claims to have relics of St. John the Baptist. It is interesting to note that during the 5th century, the Black Sea coast was part of the Byzantine empire which was ruled from Byzantium, now Istanbul, which has led some to speculate that the relics may have been donated to the monastery by a Byzantine church.
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