A Roman basilica located 20 meters offshore in Lake İznik in Bursa province will open for tourism as an "underwater museum," according to a statement released by the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality.
The Municipality mayor, Recep Altepe, spoke to the press following his investigation of the archaeological site, saying that the Roman basilica, which lies three meters under the waters of Lake İznik, has undergone underwater excavations. Stating that their aim is to open the basilica to visitors as an underwater museum which will enable tourists to see the remains of the basilica, Mayor Altepe said that the museum and basilica excavations will contribute to tourism in the district and the entire country.
He said that İznik had been home to various civilizations and stressed the historical importance of the city. "We previously thought that the basilica dated back to 1,500 years ago; however, the archaeologists discovered 1,800-year-old coins during their excavations. Currently, we believe that the basilica is at least 1,800 years old. The Roman basilica which hosted the first Christian council was submerged in an earthquake and now lies three meters under the water."
Bursa Metropolitan Municipality received approval from Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry and assigned Uludağ University's Department of Archaeology to conduct the excavation and renovation of the basilica. Archaeologists have worked with the remains of the basilica for one year now and have cleared the sand inside of the basilica. Tile works, mosaics and graves were discovered during the excavations.
Mayor Altepe said: "The history of the region is being gradually exposed to daylight. We will do everything we can to enable people to see this basilica and its history dating back nearly 2,000 years. Turkish citizens as well as international tourists will be able to visit the remains of the basilica which holds an important place in the history of Christianity. We dream of making the most beautiful underwater museum in İznik. We are working in detail to introduce this project which will contribute to the tourism sector of both İznik and Turkey."