The tomb of one of the original apostles of Jesus Christ was discovered recently in a southwestern province in Turkey.
The tomb of St. Philip the apostle, who is mentioned as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, was found by a team of archaeologists led by Francesco D’Andria, an Italian professor and archaeologist.
D’Andria and his team were unearthing the ruins of a newly-discovered church in Hieropolis, in the province Denizli, when they came across the tomb.
D’Andria said experts confirmed the tomb belonged to St. Philip as indicated by its structure and writings on it. He said they had been trying to locate the tomb for years.
St.Philip the apostle is considered a martyr in the Christian faith, having been killed by the Romans some 2000 years ago. He traveled to Hierapolis to spread the gospel.
According to ancient tradition, he died in 80 A.D. He had preached in Phrygia, Syria and Greece before he was martyred. Legend states that he was either crucified upside down, or beheaded. After his death, an octagonal shaped tomb, named The Martryium, was built for him on the spot where he died.
D’Andria had been the head of excavations in the area for some 32 years.
He told Dogan News Agency, “Until recently, we thought the grave of St. Philip was on Martyrs’ Hill, but we discovered no traces of him in the geophysical research conducted in that area. A month ago, we discovered the remnants of an unknown church, 40 meters away from the St. Philip Church on Martyrs’ Hill. And in that church we discovered the grave of St. Philip.”
So far, the grave has not been opened, but the team plans to do so in due time.
D’Andria told Dogan News Agency, “St. Philip is considered a martyr. In fact, the church built in his name on the Martyrs’ Hill is, for this reason, also called Martyrion, despite the fact there were no traces of the grave of St. Philip. As we were cleaning out the new church we discovered a month ago, we finally found the grave. With close examination, we determined that the grave had been removed from its previous location in the St. Philip Church to this new church in the fifth century, during the Byzantine era. We are extremely happy and proud to have discovered the grave of a saint whose name appears in the Bible-this surely is an important discovery for religious tourism, archaeology and Christendom.”
With the discovery it is expected that Hierapolis, which means “sacred city,” may become a Christian pilgrimage place and tourist destination. It is located beside Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city is also renowned for its hot springs which had served, since the second century, as a spa.