Monday, August 16, 2010

Archaeology: Excavation and restoration of St Ivan island near Sozopol financed by Norway

Archaeology Excavation works and renovation of the monastery complex on St Ivan Island, off the coast of Sozopol in southern Bulgarian, have been financed by the Norwegian embassy in Sofia, an embassy media statement announced on August 9 2010.

The embassy has provided 580 000 leva, covering 90 per cent of the cost for the archaeology excavations and restoration of the monastery grounds, encompassing a total of 62 projects in all, the report said.

According to the Norwegian embassy announcement, there will be a second phase of financing, covering the period until 2014, worth about 126.6 million euro, which the Scandinavian country will provide to Bulgaria for a number of different projects such as preservation of cultural heritage, green energy, improvement or energy efficiency, scientific research, education and others.

At the end of July, archaeology excavations on Saint Ivan island, part of the Norwegian-sponsored project, unearthed an exquisite marble reliquary incorporated into the church’s altar, the historian Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the National History Museum and minister without portfolio in charge of Bulgarians abroad, told Focus news agency on July 28 2010.

He suggested that the reliquary might hold the relics of John the Baptist.

St Ivan Island is the largest of five Bulgarian islands in the Black Sea, with an area of 0.66 square kilometres just off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast near Sozopol, a town rich in history and a popular tourist destination, and is separated by a strait several hundred metres long from the small neighbouring St. Peter Island. It is 920m from the Stolets peninsula, Sozopol's Old Town.

Once the island was converted to Christianity, a monastical complex was built between the 5th-6th century on top of the ruins of the old Roman temple, including the Basilica of the Mother of God. Around the 7th-9th century, the basilica was abandoned only to be reconstructed in the 10th century.

The Monastery of John the Forerunner and the Baptist grew into an important centre of Christianity in the region. Archaeological research was carried out after 1985 for two years, which revealed a royal residence, a library, part of the fortified wall with the gate and several monastic cells.

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