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Turkish excavation team claims they've unearthed part of 'Jesus' cross'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Can it be? A Turkish excavation team says yes. Archaeologist Gülgün Köroglu says a recently unearthed chest holds a most holy relic. "We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross," she has been quoted as saying.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The archaeologists say they found the chest in a 1,350-year-old church that appears to contain a relic venerated as a piece of Jesus' cross.

The items were uncovered during a dig at Balatlar Church in Turkey's Sinop Province, and displayed this week by excavation team leader Gülgün Köroglu.
 
An art historian and archaeologist at Turkey's Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Köroglu says the team suspects that the chest served as a symbolic coffin for the relics of a holy person. She adds that the fragments within it were associated with Jesus' crucifixion.

"This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far," she told reporters. The chest has been taken to a laboratory for further examination.

Köroglu said her team has been working since 2009 at the church - which was built in the year 660, during the Byzantine era. The ruins of an ancient Roman bath were also found at the site, along with more than 1,000 human skeletons.

According to legend, St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine found the cross in Jerusalem and distributed pieces of the wood to church leaders in Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople, which is present-day Istanbul in Turkey.

Fragments associated with Jesus' cross were sent far and wide as relics in ancient and medieval times.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the Fourth Century said the whole world "has been filled with pieces of the wood of the cross." St. Gregory of Nyssa said the wood had "saving efficacy for all men, though it is, as I am informed, a piece of a poor tree, less valuable than most trees are."

John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant theologian once joked that if all the pieces linked to the "true cross" were assembled in one place, "they would make a big shipload."

The Catholic Encyclopedia quotes the 19th-century French archaeologist Charles Rohault de Fleury as saying that all of the cataloged relics would amount to less than a third of the wood in a 10 by 13-foot-high cross. Relics linked to Jesus' cross can be found in many churches, including the Shrine of the True Cross and the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Texas.

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