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. CJ

    Yes the name "Chretus" could be argued that it may or may not be referring to Jesus Christ, but Seutonius ALSO said that Claudius Caesar ordered the Jews to leave Rome because of instigations from "Chrestus".
    What is really important about this is the fact that the event is almost recorded verbaitim in Acts18:2. "Claudius had commanded that all Jews depart from Rome". Why would the Bible record this event if it were not referring to Christ??
    If a non-Christian historian spoke of this, and then the Bible speaks about the event...something had to have happened. Let's be reasonable. Why would Seutonius say this if he knew it would prove events in the Bible?? He wasn't a Christian. He had nothing to gain. And if you read the book of Acts, it's content is speaking much about one of Jesus Christs' biggest followers- Paul

    August 4, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Seutonius ALSO said that Claudius Caesar ordered the Jews to leave Rome because of instigations from "Chrestus".
      Isn't christ already dead by this point?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  2. Mark

    Hello CNN, I would like to see photos of the remains, and of the reliquary. Whether the remains are of John the Baptist or not, it is an interesting story and caused a lot of discussion. God bless each of you who read and commented.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:12 am |
  3. Jane

    Do they not realize that it was common practice between the 1st and 16th centuries for the Catholic church to "manufacture' relics to draw pilgrims to their churches and monastaries. Also, John the Baptist didn't really exsist, he was a "manufactured " folk hero just like JC.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:12 am |
    • Jim

      King Arthur & Robin Hood.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  4. jimmyhoffa


    August 4, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  5. Robin Bray

    If you are going to believe every inscription on every relic we are going to need a lot of clones to fulfill the required relics.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:07 am |
  6. MA75082

    Shoddy reporting in addition to wishful thinking on the part of the archaeologists. John the Baptist is a resurrected being.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  7. lilcifer

    MORONS!! Allow me to retort in sense that the good people will not.
    If you don't believe in prophecy nor biblical fact then simply do not engage in conversation with those who do and attempt to cause unrest.
    I can just as easily say that you non believers are STUPID and IDIOTIC and IGNORANT lest we continue simply because you are so so full of yourselves that you believe that you and YOU alone are the end all do all..? That you are the top of the pecking order and lo ye have nothing and no one to fear.

    You are weak, epic failures at one very simple task given to you with the entire world as your gift to do as you like. Yet you are so caught up believing in yourself as opposed to who you gave it all to you.

    If you choose to call anything fiction then all is fiction. it is doctrine, it has been since its inscription.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:52 am |
    • Jane

      It is comments like yours that prove the atheist point. Well done.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  8. Buddah2112

    Never spend too much time dwelling on the past or gazing too far into the future. You are the here and now, enjoy it while you can.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  9. Johnny

    I can't believe I just wasted 10 minutes reading all of your insane posts. Think what you want to think...believe what you want to believe... but just shut up.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:45 am |
    • Buddah2112


      August 4, 2010 at 7:52 am |
  10. Arglebargle

    Golly, they found bones! So what? Even if they were those of John the Baptist, they are irrelevant. The only true worth of a church is the good it does, not the relics or priceless bric-a-brac it holds in its secret vaults. They should sell the bones and use the money to feed the hungry. Same with the Catholic Church. Too much wealth has gone to their heads. Their libraries and vaults should be opened and everything published...oh, wait...that would mean airing a lot of dirty laundry, wouldn't it?

    August 4, 2010 at 7:43 am |
    • Buddah2112

      TAX ALL RELIGIONS!!! Back taxes too @ 20% 4 the last 2000 years!

      August 4, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  11. jerry

    i dare all the nasayers that wrote on this blog and are denying the existasnce of god or the fact that christ would have come again by now to read all the oprophecies that are coming true all the earthquakes that are happening and all the things that areb happening in the middle east well i guess the BIBLE IS TRUE WHEN IT SAYS A FOOL HAS SAID IN HIS HEART THERE IS NO GOD

    August 4, 2010 at 7:41 am |
    • Jim

      War and earthquakes existed before Christianity. The reason for war is that humans love to kill those that are different, it's as simple as that.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:25 am |
    • Wesley Pittman

      The first blood shed was when Cain killed his brother Abel. The first earthquake was at the flood. Now Christ was always and always shall be. So war and earthquakes were after the fall of man in the garden of Eden. Christianity has always been just in a different form because everyone who worshiped God worshiped Christ.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      So why are these current earthquakes and wars the ones the signify the end of days, and not the earlier ones that have occured throughout history?
      I mean, are you sure its these ones? And not the next ones? or the ones after that?
      Are you it wasnt earlier ones and the end of days is just taking a looooooooooooong time to build up to something impressive?

      August 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      Mr. Pittman, for that to be true - that the first blood shed was when Cain killed Abel - one has to take as a given that the so-called "intelligent design" story of creation is true, yet other than the Bible claiming it, there is no evidence to support that story.

      According to Christian teaching, God is not a deceitful or capricious God, so it makes no sense that he would leave all kinds of hard physical evidence, the knowledge and materials to build instruments to examine that evidence, and the intellect to figure out what it means - eventually - and then to turn out merely to be playing with us, tricking us with false evidence.

      There is nothing in the record to give even a hint of support to some tale that The Flintstones had Adam and Eve over for supper so the kids could play with Dino together. Given that I find it impossible to believe God is capricious, I have to decline to accept your timeline, and, therefore, that your assertions are at all correct.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  12. Skypilot

    I know a John who is a Baptist, but didn't know he was dead......................sniff, sniff

    August 4, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  13. Skypilot

    This is fantastic news.........Now if they can just find proof of Santa or the Easter Bunny, that will make my day!!!!

    August 4, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  14. Wzrd1

    Europe was flooded with relics that were alleged to have come from various and sundry holy men.
    There were three or four hands belonging to John the Baptist, now there are two heads.
    Crusaders came back with all manner of items that were claimed to have originated from the apostles, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, enough wood for 50 crosses...
    Either John the Baptist had a remarkable resemblance to Vishnu, save the extra head OR a bunch of rubes went on a crusade and came back with "relics" they purchased whilst pillaging the holy land.
    I'll go with the latter, owing to the remarkably low number of 4 armed, two headed people who survived into adulthood in the ancient past.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:23 am |
  15. Sigh

    Just start reading the comments here and you will understand why religion has been the cause of more deaths in this world than anything else. Pretty pathetic. The first 20 comments are nothing but telling the person above them that they are WRONG, with half of them insulting. Everyone interprets fairytales differently. Just let it go, geez.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:16 am |
    • Bullet Tooth Mikey

      "Religion has been the cause of more deaths in this world than anything else." I think the aging process is pretty much the winner in that category.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:06 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      ' I think the aging process is pretty much the winner in that category.'
      Well I guess in the crhistian tradition, death only started after the whole garden of eden expulsion thing so I guess you could chalk that down to religion too ;:-P

      August 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  16. Pascal

    Blogs are great. Anonymous, unaccomplished experts can post snippy or long-winded rebuttals and lectures and reach the audience deserving of historians, experts and dedicated philosophers. It's a relief that we all know these folks are just Wikipedia browsers looking to have a voice. Right?

    August 4, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  17. TriumphGuy

    I think that no matter what the "good intentions" of these muslims are, this is and will always been seen by Americans as Islam building her chuch on the graves of the people she murdered. It is not appropriate and should not be allowed. Let them participate in building a multi-faith facility that represents the beliefs of everyone murdered in 9/11. Such a facility would demonstrate that Muslims in American, and Islam in general, is willing to coexist side-by-side with other religions in peace and mutual respect.

    August 4, 2010 at 7:02 am |
    • Jim

      Better not let Israel build a monument then. They haven't proved a happiness to live next to opposing cultures/religions.

      August 4, 2010 at 8:20 am |
    • Mekhong Kurt

      triumphGuy, you just managed to write something approaching a rant against Muslims without writing one single syllable in the slightest bit relevant to this blog entry. Do you see Muslims or Ground Zero mentioned? Off-topic big time.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  18. 21k

    big deal. i found matthew, mark, and luke's bones in my backyard. gawd spoke to me in a dream and told me where to dig.

    August 4, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  19. Chris-D

    "Actually, you're wrong. John the Baptist jumped in his mother (Elizabeth's) womb when Mary visited her. This jump-though an inaudible prophecy was what inspired Elizabeth to proclaim Mary as the "Mother of her lord." One should be versed in events before criticizing another so rashly."

    Do people * believe* this stuff?

    August 4, 2010 at 6:47 am |
  20. Pamsi65

    John the Baptist did not come prophesying Jesus, he came preaching Jesus.....

    August 4, 2010 at 6:26 am |
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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.