© IBB Miras
In the heart of the metropolis of Istanbul, an incredible archaeological find recently occurred: three Byzantine statues carved more than 1,500 years ago, about two meters high. This astonishing discovery continues to demonstrate the historical richness of Istanbul, enriching the cultural heritage of Turkey. The latest treasure to emerge is the church of St. Polyeuktos, built between 524 and 527 AD, which has been patiently unearthed in the area of Sarachane, now a tourist destination which was a hub of life during the era of Byzantine Empire, when Istanbul was still called Constantinople.
The discovery of San Polyeuktos, and the long work to bring it to light, revealed that this was the largest church in the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire until the construction of the Hagia Sophia, which took place about 20 years later. Currently, three statues have been unearthed, dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries, which scholars have classified as funerary monuments intended for leading figures of the Byzantine Empire. In addition to the sculpted figures, signs and symbols can be seen that provide information about the status, position and profession of the people buried within the church.
The discovery took place at a depth of just 70 cm, confirming the archaeological richness of the area and stimulating the municipality of Istanbul to involve historians and archaeologists in the discovery of new works. This is a significant circumstance in a city like Istanbul, where the past of Byzantium and Constantinople has left a huge cultural heritage, despite the destruction caused by urban development over the last few centuries. Istanbul has a history dating back 9,000 years, with the first documented settlements on the Asian side dating back to the seventh century BC.
The city played a central role in ancient Greece as Byzantium, later becoming the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, taking advantage of a better strategic position than Rome, both militarily and commercially. In AD 330, the Roman emperor Constantine came to power and renamed the city Constantinople, a change that heralded a new era in the history of the region. This city has withstood 21 sieges over the centuries, leaving a monumental legacy that attracts tourists from all over the world, such as the Aqueduct of Valens, the Theodosian Walls, the Hagia Sophia and the Church of San Salvatore in Chora . Only in 1453, the walls built by Theodosius were finally overcome by the troops of Sultan Fatih II. Since that time, Istanbul has experienced another phase of its history.