Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov, head of the excavation works on the island of St Ivan in an interview for Focus News Agency.
Focus: Prof Popkonstantinov, today you found a reliquary, during the excavations on the St Ivan Island. Can you tell us something about the relic… where did u find it?
Kazimir Popkonstantinov: Today, 28 July, at 13:30 during the study of the altar of the temple, which is from the early Byzantine era, from the first half of 5th century, and not the temple of St John the Baptist; we found a reliquary, which is always located under a pylon, on which is placed the Holy Throne.
Focus: Can you explain something about it, please?
Kazimir Popkonstantinov: Relics are always placed in the reliquary, in most of the cases - the relics of the saint, to whom the temple dedicated. In this case, unfortunately, we do not know for sure whose these relics are. If the temple is from the 5th century, and as a first temple lying on a Thracian settlement and probably a Thracian Sanctuary, which was dedicated to the Apollo deity, we can assume that probably this temple has been dedicated to St John the Baptist. If this turns out to be true, we could say that these are parts from St John the Baptist’s relics. But before the reliquary is opened we can not say this with certainty.
Focus: What is most important for you in this case?
Kazimir Popkonstantinov: The more important thing is that this reliquary is the first, found in the southern parts of the Black Sea. So far, only one reliquary was found in Pomorie in the beginning of the previous century, which is now in the Byzantine museum in Athens. This is the most important and interesting thing of this discovery.
Focus: How does the finding look like?
Kazimir Popkonstantinov: The shape of the reliquary is very similar to a sarcophagus from the ancient era. Its dimensions are 20cm long, 10cm high and 10cm wide. These dimensions suggest that probably there is another reliquary in the temple. It is very similar to others, especially the one from Dzhanavar Tepe in Varna, which is from the same period, and if you remember a marble reliquary was found, when it was opened there was a silver one and inside the silver there was golden one. It is hard to say whether the case here will be similar, before we open it. This will be done on Sunday, as we will establish a special committee for the opening of the reliquary. Deputy Minister Todor Chobanov will send a representative from the Ministry of Culture, and Minister Bozhidar Dimitrov, who was a director of the National Museum of history for a long period, will take part in the committee.
Focus: Does this change the image of Sozopol and the St Ivan Island as a Christian center?
Kazimir Popkonstantinov: It remains a Christian centre, as it was in the initial period of Christianity. It does no lose its importance. It is known that the Byzantine Patriarchate was building Patriarchal Monasteries in these lands, where patriarchs were buried and banished.
Focus: What is the difference between the Monastery temple and the other temple on the island?
Kazimir Popkonstantinov: The finding is not in the monastery temple, but in the other temple, which is from the first half of the 5th century. The Monastery temple, dedicated to St John the Baptist, was build somewhere in the 11th century. But I must add that it is possible that this temple could also have been dedicated to St John, than it was converted to monastery chapel and ossuary.