Archaeologists Uncover Ancient City Where Early Christians Could Have Fled to Escape Persecution

Faithful light candles prior to the Easter Resurrection Service  at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, late Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Erdem Sahin/Pool via AP)

Faithful light candles prior to the Easter Resurrection Service at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, late Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Erdem Sahin/Pool via AP)

05-19-2022 CBN News Jerusalem Emily Jones

JERUSALEM, Israel – Archaeologists have uncovered a large, 2,000-year-old underground city in Turkey that could have been a refuge for early Christians escaping Roman persecution, Live Sciences reports.

Excavators found the ancient complex inside a limestone cave in the Midyat district of Turkey’s Mardin province. The underground city contains storage chambers for food and water, homes, and houses of worship, including a church and what appears to be the remains of an ancient synagogue with a Star of David painted on the wall.

Archaeologists believe the city – officially named “Matiate” – was built sometime in the second or third centuries AD after discovering Roman-era artifacts like coins and lamps inside. 

“It was first built as a hiding place or escape area,” Gani Tarkan, director of Mardin Museum and head of excavations told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

“Christianity was not an official religion in the second century [and] families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution of Rome,” Tarkan said. “Possibly, the underground city of Midyat was one of the living spaces built for this purpose.”

***Please sign up for CBN Newsletters and download the CBN News app to ensure you keep receiving the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***

Many early Christians were Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  Both religions faced intense persecution at the hands of the pagan Romans. After the Romans, early Christians were also persecuted by the Persians. 

Ancient geographers wrote that many Christians inhabited the southern region of what is now Turkey, likely to escape persecution. 

Lozan Bayar, an archaeologist with Mardin’s Office for Protection and Supervision, believes the recently discovered underground city could have been a place where ancient Christians fled to safety. 

“In the early period of Christianity, Rome was under the influence of pagans before later recognizing Christianity as an official religion,” he told Hürriyet Daily News, a Turkish news site. “Such underground cities provided security to people and they also performed their prayers there. They were also places of escape.”

Archaeologists believe they have excavated less than 5% of the underground city. The entire complex could be about 4 million square feet – enough to house between 60,000 to 70,000 people. 

Did you know?

God is everywhere—even in the news. That’s why we view every news story through the lens of faith. We are committed to delivering quality independent Christian journalism you can trust. But it takes a lot of hard work, time, and money to do what we do. Help us continue to be a voice for truth in the media by supporting CBN News for as little as $1.Support CBN News

Steve Martin

STEVE & LAURIE MARTIN - LOVE FOR HIS PEOPLE FOUNDERS My good wife Laurie and I (45 years in October 2022!), through the ministry of Love For His People we founded in 2010, give love and support for our friends in Israel and in other nations with friendship, humanitarian aid, and social media support, along with Steve's messages, and our Ahava Adventures trips to Israel. Steve has also authored and published 34 books. We live in the Charlotte, NC area. We have four adult children, spouses, and eight grandkids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.