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August 3rd, 2010
01:49 PM ET

Remains of John the Baptist found in Bulgaria?

John the Baptist, right, as depicted in this 14th century painting at the National Gallery, London

Archaeologists in Bulgaria claim they have found remains of John the Baptist while excavating the site of a 5th century monastery on the Black Sea island of Sveti Ivan.

A reliquary – a container for holy relics – discovered last week under the monastery’s basilica was opened on Sunday and found to contain bone fragments of a skull, a hand and a tooth, Bulgaria’s official news agency BTA reported.

Excavation leader Kazimir Popkonstantinov lifted the reliquary’s lid in a ceremony in the coastal town of Sozopol attended by dignitaries including the Bishop of Sliven, Yoanikii, and Bozhidar Dimitrov, a government minister and director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum, BTA said.

Further tests on the fragments are due to be carried out. But Popkonstantinov is convinced the relics belong to John the Baptist because of a Greek inscription on the reliquary referring to June 24, the date when Christians celebrate John the Baptist’s birth, according to the website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

A later monastery on the island, built in the 11th century, was dedicated to John the Baptist – "Sveti Ivan" means "St. John" in Bulgarian and other Slavic languages. Popkonstantinov told Bulgarian news agency Focus that it was possible the earlier basilica was also dedicated to the saint.

Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of the Vatican Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, told CNN that the commission "will wait until a more thorough study has been conducted, including anthropological analysis, before it will express an opinion on the finding."

Bisconti also said there are thousands of alleged relics of John the Baptist scattered around the world. He said the pontifical commission has not been contacted by the Bulgarian archaeologists, and that it normally does not get involved in the sacred archaeology studies carried outside of Italy.

Christians believe John the Baptist heralded the arrival of Christ and baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. According to the Gospels, John was put to death by beheading on the orders of the local ruler, Herod Antipas. He is considered a particularly significant figure in the Orthodox Church.

The newly discovered reliquary is made of alabaster and dates from approximately the middle of the 5th century, Popkonstantinov told reporters. The southern Black Sea coast was then part of the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Byzantium, now Istanbul in Turkey.

Popkonstantinov told Focus the reliquary was the first to be discovered in the region.

Dimitrov told Focus the relics may once have been donated to the monastery by the Byzantine church. The Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul is one of several sites claiming to house relics purported to be those of John the Baptist.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity

soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. Ken

    I'm not sure what the debate is all about. "The Greatest Story Ever Told" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNf-P_5u_Hw

    August 4, 2010 at 4:12 am |
  2. Joannie

    After reading all this, I now know why my father taught me.... NEVER get into a discussion of politics or religion because NO ONE is ever accurate or right!

    August 4, 2010 at 4:07 am |
    • Elitesack

      If you read the bible Jesus actually confirms that religion will be the greatest lie ever told. I believe its referred to as something in the spirit of the anti christ. An entity that comes in the name of God but is really not. This and the fact that he repeatedly smacked up churches and broke stuff at churches. Just because religion is flawed does not mean anything when it comes to God and Jesus, both outspoken in their disgust for religion.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:53 am |
  3. really?!?!

    well.... you know all of those commentators from the top of the article calling eachother stupid and idiot. how low an you get. i mean really you dont need to go around baggin on everything these people are saying. they are excited over something lets give them credit for trying. the remains of john the baptist have never been found and to the religios community would be amazing if were so. are any of you acctually catholic????? faith is a gift and to have that you dont need prof that jesus existed or the apostles did. we believe it becuase were meant to and because thats our faith not because its been proven to us!!! you cant always believe in something just because its there!! argueing over the fact you think someone else is wrong an your right isnt really worth it. cant you harnass that energy into something productive?!?! i mean really people hink about ityou on the internet arguing over the fact you think someone else presented false facts.. get real . if thats what they believe let them..... yeeesh

    ps its our lady of guadalupe and thats mary
    incase you didnt believe

    August 4, 2010 at 3:42 am |
    • Jim

      The shift key is next to the "z" key on the left of your keyboard, and the "?/" key on the right of your keyboard.

      August 4, 2010 at 4:12 am |
    • Langkard

      What does Catholic have to do with any of this? A Bulgarian church of the 5th century would have been entirely Eastern Orthodox, not Roman Catholic. But why let a few facts interfere with a perfectly nonsensical rant?

      August 4, 2010 at 5:58 am |
    • MikeyD74

      no religion is for the weak minded who refuse to believe that there is no higher power. no omnipotent being sitting on high waiting to judge us for our transgressions, they cant grasp the fact that cosmic s%&t happens and our planet was one of the lucky ones

      August 4, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • orange2001

      @langkard:

      If you actually knew anything about anything, then you'd know that in the 5th century there was only ONE Church. The split between east and west (Orthodox and Catholic) didn't occur until the 10th century.

      But these are merely facts... who cares eh?

      August 5, 2010 at 4:03 am |
  4. Amused

    Thank you all for amusing me. Comments made from different personalities with a lot or little emotion, common sense, or passionate faith is nothing short of fiction and non fiction comedy.

    Night Ya'll

    August 4, 2010 at 3:30 am |
    • DangerMouse

      Toodle-pip, old bean!

      August 4, 2010 at 3:45 am |
  5. wilson

    DNA proof or STFU.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:26 am |
  6. lmfreels

    what a waste of a story....i mean, who cares...he's dead right? it can never be proven it's him-and even if it could be proven, his christian magic mumbo jumbo hooplah couldn't be useful anyway, HE'S DEAD-doesn't that mean his fairy dust is gone? put him back in his crypt, whoever he is.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:21 am |
  7. GodIsForImbeciles

    Let's call it "The Piltdown Priest," and be done with it. It's just another ridiculous and unfounded claim to bolster a silly superstition.

    August 4, 2010 at 3:17 am |
  8. TheBossIsOut

    John was buried in Israel as the Bible states clearly. Oh but let me guess, his remains were too holy to be left there. They had to be dug up and moved to some obscure Island in the Black Sea. What university did these archaeologists get their degrees from? From the U of Stupidity?

    August 4, 2010 at 3:06 am |
    • 007

      Jerusalem(Israel) was part of the Byzantine Empire – they have taken everything sacred to the Christians to their capital Constantinople. And this very island is about 50 miles from Constantinople.

      August 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  9. MountingLosses

    Oh, wait... that apears to be John The Baptist's foreskin..... sorry, nevermind you Christianfreaklosers..

    August 4, 2010 at 3:04 am |
  10. Ian

    If this story is true it's so cool!

    August 4, 2010 at 3:04 am |
  11. JNP

    John the Baptist has been resurrected.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  12. Jim

    Scull Fragments?! Lick it, you'll see purty colours...

    August 4, 2010 at 2:57 am |
  13. Josephine

    Some of you mock Christians as believing in fairy tales. I'll bet you do not have the intellectual fortitude to actually investigate whether or not there is a rational basis for faith. I assure you that there is. There are also many gifted minds now and throughout history who will also agree. If you read with any depth, try CS Lewis and Blaise Pascal for starters. The question is whether or not you have the courage to actually seek that out. You think you are so rational but have you ever studied biochemistry, physics or chemistry? The design is incredible. Google : The Inner Life of the Cell | XVIVO Scientiic Animation, Harvard University. Pull out a book on astronomy or look up with a high powered telescope and tell me that you are not awestruck ? There is something extraordinary and compelling about how the world is put together and telling me it is a random chance accident that had an almost infinite improbability of occurring is no more reasonable than saying there is a supreme being. The evidence is everywhere. I dare you, dare you to open your eyes.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:49 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I do look up and see and I am awestruck. I am awestruck by the beauty that nature can create.
      I am however, also disgusted by the horrors it creates too...such as, as David Attenborough puts it, the worm that is slowly burrowing into the childs eye, making him blind.
      Go praise your god for making such things, yay.

      And it takes less 'belief' to believe in natural occurances than in a magical all seeing, all knowing, all powerful deity, who decided one day, for some reason, to create a universe and then punish people, that he created, that didnt follow him.

      August 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Josephine, I almost went into the sciences instead of becoming a university English teacher. I had telescopes, microscopes, home chemistry labs, etc. growing up. Flew model planes and rockets. Got a National Science Foundation scholarship between my junior and senior years in high school to go to a university summer program to study physics.

      There's scarce a day goes by I don't marvel at the world and universe around me. And that marvel allows for an ultimate cause. But that ultimate cause my be perfectly mundane and physical, no myths required - not precluded, but not required.

      "God spoke to me" doesn't cut it as proof. BUT - if that makes you happy, fine.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:01 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Cedar Rapids

      Amen, and well said man! I salute you.

      August 7, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  14. Lou C. Fer

    I have a piece of toast with a burnt image of Jesus for sale 😉

    August 4, 2010 at 2:49 am |
    • Nimrod

      I'll swap you for some of my toothpicks I made from pieces of the true cross.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:51 am |
  15. TJ from texas

    Miguel be careful what you wish for, that may well be your future home.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  16. verify

    @Xaris: And I was like you before - it was comfortable and secure in its way in its neatly sewn-up package - just not real.

    ustink: Thank you - what a very nice thing to say.

    peace2you: I'm on for a booze and schmooze! Make mine gin/tonic. We'll close the joint down!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  17. Von C.

    I'm guessing John the baptist looked like one of those three guys on the front.

    My image of Jesus and his apostles are being painted everyday and I like how the painting is turning out.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  18. miguel

    Friends: it's been fun. Zorbian, Deserts Myserty, Mormon Guy; I appreciate you all. I have GOT to get some work done so I can go to bed. See you in hell.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • Deserts Mystery

      its my pleasure, see you soon on some other persons discovery lol

      August 4, 2010 at 2:40 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Take care Miguel, I'll save the hotseat for ya. 😉

      August 4, 2010 at 2:45 am |
    • TJ from texas

      Feel sorry for you Miguel, be careful what you wish for.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:45 am |
    • Jim

      Should be pretty safe.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:43 am |
  19. johnny T

    More likely that various churches across the Christian world all had relics claiming to be the tooth of some saint, or the head of John the Baptist, or a piece of the cross, and none of them were real. It was economic: each church needed a relic in order to attract followers. There were tons of claimed relics of John the Baptist. You might want to do a little research next time, or at least read Umberto Eco's "Baudolino."

    August 4, 2010 at 2:33 am |
    • miguel

      It would seem that an archaeological degree is easy to come by in Bulgaria, is all.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:35 am |
  20. TJ from texas

    Hello Miguel check out Chronicals 15:12-13. You may not ROT in Hell but Check out this from the bible.

    And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.

    August 4, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • miguel

      Love comes in many forms. Like, sharp swords, or explosive belts.

      August 4, 2010 at 2:30 am |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Don't forget those ninja stars, Miguel!

      August 4, 2010 at 2:35 am |
    • Nimrod

      Sorry TJ, but we'll have to deduct 10 points from your grade because you misspelled "Chronicles".

      August 4, 2010 at 2:43 am |
    • DangerMouse

      "evil will shall evil mar" – Tolkien

      "I'm a loser, baby...so why don't you kill me..." – Beck

      August 4, 2010 at 2:53 am |
    • GodIsForImbeciles

      "I don't know what's gonna happen man, but I'm gonna have my kicks before the whole s**thouse goes up in flames!" –Jim Morrison

      August 4, 2010 at 3:19 am |
    • DangerMouse

      correction – that should read "Oft evil will shall evil mar." – Tolkein

      What I'm tolkien about.

      August 4, 2010 at 3:42 am |
    • Langkard

      "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823.

      August 4, 2010 at 5:56 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      '"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823.'
      But is he hoping that will be the case, or is he lamenting that that will be the case?

      August 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.