Archaeologists in the Black Sea town of Zozopol in Bulgaria have unearthed the main church of a 14th century Byzantine monastery built by the last dynasty of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Funded by the Bulgarian government, Dr Krastina Panayotova’s team of archaeologists  uncovered the St. Apostles monastery church, a small cemetery chapel, and a feudal castle dating back to the 13th-15th century eras. This was the last of Byzantine Empire before it was wiped off the map by the Ottoman Turkish invaders.

The Bulgarian resort towns of Sozopol and Nessebar were among the last Byzantine areas to be conquered by the Ottomans that fell in 1459 AD, 6 years after the possession of Constantinople. Sozopol and Nessebar were first conquered by the First Bulgarian Empire in the middle ages, but possession shuttled back and forth between Bulgaria and Byzantium.

The church of St Apostles monastery was built around 1335 AD and, according to Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of the Bulgarian National History Museum, it was the largest and most beautiful church along the Bularian Black Sea coast. Because it is built on the Cape of Sozopol, it could be seen from all towns in the Gulf of Burgas.

Of the 120 dignitaries buried near the church, most were military officers identified to have been wearing boots with iron attachments. One was found buried with a sophisticated medallion depicting the birth of Christ and a young woman was found buried with a bag containing 65 silver and copper coins.

In an effort to boost the development of cultural and religious tourism in the area the government has expressed readiness to provide more funds for the restoration of the church, which is the largest along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The Bulgarian National History Museum has announced plans that the “emergency conservation” of the top archaeological find will begin in the coming days.

During the summer of 2010 a display of relics of St. John the Baptist found in a monastery on St. Ivan Island located off Sozopol’s coast was hosted by archaeologist Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov.  Perhaps the Knights Templar or Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John) were located in that spot for a while.

One of the sources I used to research on this post was novenite.com.

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