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. Kristian Iliev

    Credibility: I am a proud Bulgarian who lives in America (due to the fall of Communism, after Western traitors messed up the world and my parents decided to emigrate) and I have been to Sozopol and Sveti Ivan. I am also doubtful of the authenticity of these claims. I am 15 years old and have read the The Constitution.
    1) Nobody will prove anything. This is just a ploy to attract tourists.
    2) Do you really think Obama would be president if he wasn't American? When is the last time you saw Bush's birth certificate? Such a typical Republican. Just because you are most likely fat and have shown how uneducated you are through your comments doesn't mean you should rub your ignorance on others. You're most likely brainwashed, ugly, poor and racist. You also live in some unimportant Southern state with your wife (a once-removed female cousin) and two sons. You cling to your guns and your faith and will be very proud one day when your sons die in Afghanistan.

    August 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  2. believer

    christ came not to condemn but to save us.too non believers,if you are right in your belief then not to worry.but just suppose you are wrong.what then.

    August 7, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  3. Wes Brown

    In 1973, I was sent to Damascus, Syria by my employer, Hughes Aircraft Satellite Systems as part of their effort to participte in the Arab League Satellite System. While I was there, I visited the large mosque in the center of the city and the museum there. I was told that the head of John the Baptist was interred there. This does not agree with the finding of skull fragments on an island. What is the situation??

    August 7, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
    • Emmy

      I don't that is possible. From what I remember, most of his remains were supposedly lost because his tomb was raided and some of his bones were partially burned circa A.D. 362 and what remains were rescued were taken to Jerusalem and then Alexandria and laid to rest at Alexandria. I am not good at geography so I could be wrong but I remember Herodias wanted his head and she got it and kept it. I'm not entirely sure that his head was ever with his remains or that his head was ever recovered. It may be a load of horse crap but then again I think this article is load of horse crap too. I don't think the remains are his. There are so many places that already claim to house the remains of John the Baptist, it's hard to tell what the situation is.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  4. Eric G

    What is more important? Knowing that god exists or believing that god exists?

    August 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • jerry

      eric g to quote the bible oups THE BIBLE EVEN THE DEMONS BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS AND THEY TREMBLE you know that GOD exists all you want but unless you know HIM PERSONALY BY ACCEPTING CRIST AS YOUR SAVIOUR IT MEENS NOTHING

      August 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
    • CRIST

      So there. pppbbbbbb!

      August 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
    • Eric G

      You are missing my question. If you had the opportunity to verify the existence of your god, would you do it? Is it more important to believe that your god exists or to know if your god exists? I am not trying to be a "militant atheist", I am really curious about what level of importance believers place on faith in their preception of reality.

      August 8, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  5. Child of God

    Each one that is passing judgment against our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ will have to bow down before him on the day of Judgment and be accountable for every thing that they have said. Then you will be judged. People be careful what you say. Whatever you so shall say, you shall have. JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS FOR EACH AND EVERYONE OF OUR SINS, SO THAT WE MAY HAVE ETERNAL LIFE WITH THE FATHER, SON & HOLY GHOST. TO SEE OUR LOVES ONES AGAIN. LET'S NOT LET THE DEVIL CLOUD OUR SPIRITS. JESUS LOVES ALL OF HIS CHILDREN.

    August 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • CoqCheney

      I hope so, because if there's a god, I want credit for paying attention to "his creation" and using my brain, which should be a "crowning achievement" for "him."

      August 8, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  6. Jenn

    We know God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, do exist.

    The Holy Bible is not the only text that is a Testimony of Christ. Among others, there is also a compilation of books, a history of people that testify of Christ and his gospel. These people lived here, on the American Continent, and testify of Christs Birth, atonement, crucifixion and appearance in the America's after his crucifixion.

    The last people to see Christ alive weren't those that were there @ the cross, when he left this mortal state. There are people even today that are of pure heart that get to see God. No, I'm not talking about the crazy's out there. And if by me making this comment, there are those out there that think that if this was happening we would be hearing about it, I say that things that are of a personal, sacred nature, are not always shared openly. On the other hand, I think that if we pay close attention in this life, we will encounter those that are touched by God on a daily basis. The key is that we pay close attention. Christ was meek and humble, not flashy. So his miracles and graces are often quiet. If we are caught up in the hustle of every day life we will, and do, miss these testimony's of Him.

    August 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  7. jerry

    david the proof that i have is that mine is real what has buddah or mahamud done for anyone nothing because like i said there is only one TRUE GOD its not man made its not false THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD UNDER HEAVEN WHERE WHICH A MAN SHALL BE SAVED,THE MAN CHRIST JESUS and by the way no iwont because i know for sure that there is only one GOD and HE is not dead like budda or muhamid HIS NAME IS JESUS like i said the bottom line is that GOD IS LOVE GOD IS REAL AND GOD SENT HIS ONLY SON TO DIE ON THE CROSS TO SAVE THE SOULS OF HUMANITY FROM ETERNAL PUNISHMENT IN HELL ask a muslim if there god has ever done that every thing is fine until you stand up for something with conviction than all of a sudden everyone has a problem with i.im sorry but the GOD that i serve doesnt tell people to drive plains into buildings or kil people in the name of religion

    August 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • verify

      jerry: Mush-minded is as mush-minded does. Your posts are rubbish... both in format and in content.

      August 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  8. Erin

    John the Baptist was the first martyr for condemning divorce and remarriage.
    John regarded this issue as so important that he lost his life over it–a danger he must have been well aware of.

    Every time John ran into Herod–after Herod divorced his wife and remarried Herodias–he called out to him and told him that his remarriage was unlawful. This was a very dangerous thing to do.

    In the same way, we are not doing right by people when we hold back from them God's truth about divorce and remarriage. Do our pastors today sense the urgency to convey the truth to people?

    In the past–this was the standard opening to a wedding ceremony. The minister was required to say the following:

    “I Require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that if any persons are joined together OTHER than as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is NOT lawful.”
    -–Book of Common Prayer

    "For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together OTHERWISE than God’s Word doth allow are NOT joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.”
    -–Book of Common Prayer

    If people today would examine the Scriptures they would discover that MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE.

    “Everyone who puts away his wife and takes another, is a false husband and he who is married to a woman whose husband has put her away, is no true husband to her.” Bible in Basic English - Luke 16:18

    After he takes another wife he becomes a FALSE husband to the second wife and the man who takes the woman who was put away by her husband is NOT her true husband.


    August 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
    • Teresa

      There was more to it than merely divorce/remarraige issues. This was also an account of revenge and a hatred for morality and truth as well.

      August 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  9. David Johnson

    @r j sledge

    You said, "All science vs possibility of virgin birth please read this article. If man can produce this what do you think a supreme being could do?"

    Doesn't it kind of bother you that an all powerful god raped a human? A lot of Roman and Greek gods had relations with humans. Do you think that is where the idea might have come from? Did you know that it was said, that Julius Caesar was born of a virgin? Do you think Caesar was born of a virgin, considering what an all powerful Roman god can do? LOL! LOL 'tll my sides ache!

    August 7, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  10. James

    WOW! Let's me know how many religious zealots there are in America. There are more posts here arguing over some little point than there were about health care. I suppose many of you still think Obama isn't an American and most of you hate gays and blacks...

    August 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • Teresa

      Well James, you don't sound like the very same bigot against people of faith, that you are making a big blanket statement against Christians for hating 'gays & blacks'. I was unaware that I hated? Just because I don't affirm and celebrate their sexual identities, I 'hate ' them? Really? That is funny bc Christians have done more for humanity in the name of love, sacrifice, education, monetary assistance, counseling, helping orphans and a millions of other examples, then any other group.
      You are the hateful one! We just want anyone who is struggling to find God, to gain access to his love and care through repentance. You don't want to find that peace but millions of others do. 10,000 Communist bound Chinese people repent and believe daily.
      What are you doing to alleviate anyone's suffering, James?
      God bless blacks, and Asians and whites and Latino, and every other skin color bc God is calling sincere and repentance people from every race, tribe and tongue to honor him and they have been coming for years and still are daily. You really want to use a shield of hatred to seclude yourself from Jesus and millions of other sincere believers whose lives are marked by love and truth? Think that through, bc the independence you desire from him, will one day be given you. You can see it in Revelation 20, if you want to go look it up for yourself.
      Who knows, maybe even ol' Obama will give up his communist socialist worldviews and repent one day too?

      August 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  11. Kent

    People, people, people. First, get a grasp of the English language. Second, think.

    Reread the article. The words "heralded the arrival of" do not have the same meaning as "prophesized". Once you understand that, there go the bulk of the postings. Now, your newfound insight should lead you to an easy method of eliminating the remaining posts.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  12. Kathyj

    God loves all of his children. Jesus Christ died on the cross so we all could be forgiven of our sins.
    God bless each of you.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • Teresa

      Know that all humans are HIS creation, but not his CHILDREN> You have to repent and be born again, and you are adopted into his family if you are on the narrow path entering by His name alone. Many will perish in hell because they were in rebellion to his grace.

      August 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  13. Grizzwired

    Is there any subject that will garner more attention, pro or against, than the mere mention of the name of Jesus Christ? Just look at the sheer number of comments to this story. I am a follower of Christ, but I am because I choose to be. Those of you who are not followers of Christ, are not because you choose to be, and this is your choice, and thus, should be respected by all. I was drawn to Jesus because of his meekness, and the way that he loves in spite of. He calls his followers to do the same. Too often, we lose sight of this. I am not apologizing for my fellow believers here, but I will simply tell you that the lasting experience of becoming a follower of Christ is real CHANGE. This change in our lives, brought about by the Holy Spirit, fills that void that I believe all humans have, and offers us a joy and completeness that surpasses all of our understanding. Knowing the effect that accepting Christ as our savior has in our lives, we do become quite zealous in wishing others to share in this same experience. You must understand that many believers have walked a far worse path in your shoes and understand exactly what it is like to live for the pleasures of this world. They also now understand the love of truth and have a strong desire to share it. The problem sometimes lies in how we express this desire to others. My prayer is that I can follow the perfect example, and let my theology be of love.

    August 7, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  14. Vicky

    Nate,shut the hell up!

    August 7, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  15. flagman 1776

    It's OK not to believe, it's even OK to believe. But the best part is, is to talk about Jesus, Mary, Joseph and John the Baptist wouldn't you say if you were a follower? Because if you really do believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior then the rest of the story must fall into place, and that little devil has a home some place also. But you followers must give way to those who do not believe, it isn't your business to stop those on a path truly not followed buy you, is it?

    August 7, 2010 at 8:26 am |
    • Teresa

      Okay, so last I checked the entire world was filled with 75% or more, of people who are under the sway of other religions? Tolerance by definition means to put up with or allow that which you don't agree with. And we have done that. Who sends help when there are disasters, but Christian volunteers with money, medicine, supplies, well digging equipment and countless other examples? Sometimes based on the bizarre things that non-Christians say about us, you would think they have never looked into research about what hundreds (?) or Thousands of Christian ministries are doing to supply aid, love, comfort, counseling, and whatever else to countries of the world need, many not Christian? So, what more do you want from my people? Is it that we will not come along side and say, "All contradictory "Gods' and religions are equal, even though that doesn’t makes sense at all, and goes against our deity who walked the earth?
      I am sorry, but a true Christian will not do that. And by the way, what are you doing to alleviate anyone suffering?

      August 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  16. jerry

    oh and david the reason i use capitals when i refer to GOD or JESUS is because i giving the respet that is due yours truly jerry THE JESUS FREAK or fanatical as you say

    August 7, 2010 at 8:26 am |
    • David Johnson


      What proof do you have other than a book and the feeling in your heart? Do you think the Muslims have a book (Quran) and a feeling in their heart? Why is yours better than theirs? If we lived in Iran, you would probably be shouting GOD IS GREAT, and telling everyone to convert to the one true Muslim religion.

      August 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  17. jerry

    dear david thankyou for the compliment on calling me a fanatic i like to think of it as being a JESUS FREAK thank you very much you say your an atheist arent you so glad about GOD'S GRACE because its GODS GRACE is the reason that all of us are still here and by the way just so you know weather you like it or not JUSUS LOVES YOU AND DIED TO SAVE YOUR SOUL

    August 7, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  18. CatholicMom


    You said the Bible is ‘often mistranslated text’. Do you have the original for comparison? And if you do, are you qualified to translate?

    Perhaps, you mean the Bible has been ‘misinterpreted’ and, that would make more sense, when you see how many different Bibles are ‘out there’ which started with the Deformation of the 1500’s. Now there are thousands and thousands of ecclesial communities all claiming to carry the Truth in ‘their’ Bible. It is a man made mess.

    The Catholic Church, around 300 AD, gathered the inspired Books and placed them under one cover, forming the Bible; it did not change until heretics took the Bible, threw out Books, changed words, added and subtracted words, to suit their thinking, so now how many different interpretations are there?

    People are now so dissolutioned that they want to throw out the Old Testament; others want to throw out religion but keep the Bible [or the parts they carry] which tells them about their religion, Christianity! It is all because they each want to be their own Pope. It is a man made mess.

    August 6, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Sanity Claws

      CatholicMom, could you tell all of us poor, dumb, ignorant masses why no one has found any document written by Jesus himself?
      He is described as being well-educated in the teachings of the Jewish faith, so I can only assume that, if he ever knew how to write words, something has happened to what he wrote.
      Will no one go and investigate this in the Vatican? Jesus walked around doing all these fantastic things, but nobody has an eye-witness account or even the writings of the man himself?
      Is this something that you are not encouraged to speculate upon?

      August 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      We have the oldest versions of particular books. We have no way of knowing if they are the originals or not, but they don't match what's bandied around now as The Bible.

      Also–the Council of Laodicea's canon in ~360CE didn't include Revelations. Does yours?

      The veracity of the Bible is impossible to verify. We do know that particular books seem to have been modified over the past 2000 years and that canons have been arranged, rearranged, chopped up, added to, and mistranslated from previous versions. How about the "Wicked" Bible that omitted a crucial "not"?

      August 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  19. CatholicMom


    Atheists have a soul even though it may have lost its magnetism as you say, [so to speak]. They are children of God as everyone is.

    They can get that magnetism back if they want it; it has everything to do with their freewill

    August 6, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • Sanity Claws

      I like the idea of free-will. It is the ability to think and act for oneself. An anti-god idea used by those who refuse to think and act for themselves in order to prove that free-will should be somehow given up.
      A delusion and a snare.

      August 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • Teresa

      Okay, so if you are so familar with the bible, why are you passing innorect info that all of creation are God's children? You have to repent and be born again to be adopted into God's family.

      August 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  20. CatholicMom

    Many Scientists have ‘ears to hear’ and have discovered God through their work; that’s what I love about Science! The more they work, the more we understand the wonders God has given us! Science is such a gift to us.

    I really appreciate people who devote their lives to discovering every new amazing Truth. Truth has always been there….as people we just discover it. So, thank you, all you hard workers in science; I await your next discovery. God bless your steadfast perseverance!

    August 6, 2010 at 10:16 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
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.