The Underwater Basilica of Nicaea: Archaeology in the Birthplace of Christian Theology, By Mark R. Fairchild

The Underwater Basilica of Nicaea

Archaeology in the Birthplace of Christian Theology

by Mark R. Fairchild

The Underwater Basilica of Nicaea
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: November 05, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A1067
  • ISBN: 9781514010679

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A Firsthand Look at a Groundbreaking Archaeological Discovery

In 2014, aerial photography revealed a submerged structure beneath the waters of Lake Iznik, near the ancient city of Nicaea. The structure appeared to be in the shape of an ancient basilica church, with a nave, aisles, and an apse pointing to the east. The discovery was named one of the top ten archaeological discoveries in 2014 by the Archaeological Institute of America. Earlier excavations in ancient Nicaea have revealed fourteen Byzantine churches in the city, but none of them can be dated as early as the fourth century.

Biblical scholar and archaeologist Mark Fairchild’s work on the archaeological excavations in Turkey reveals what he argues is the likely location of the First Council of Nicaea. The Underwater Basilica of Nicaea includes:

  • Beautiful images from the excavation
  • Helpful maps from the dig site
  • Fascinating insights for a location that very well be the birthplace of Christian theology.

"Owing to his expertise after decades of research in Turkey during the Greco-Roman and Christian eras, Mark Fairchild was invited to collaborate with the Turkish marine archaeologist Mustafa Şahin, who in 2015 discovered and has been excavating the underwater church found in a lake by ancient Nicaea. This discovery is thought to be the very church where the Council of Nicaea was held in AD 325, and Fairchild artfully guides the reader through the early written sources that inform about the church and provides a fascinating treatment of the architectural remains. This book is a major contribution that sheds light on the early chapters of church history, and is written in an engaging style."

James K. Hoffmeier, professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"This is an excellent study of the recent archaeological discovery of an underwater basilica at the site of Nicaea in modern northwestern Turkey. The real strength of the book is integrative: Dr. Fairchild adeptly weaves history and archaeology to help the reader understand the importance of Nicaea in the early history of the church. Dr. Fairchild's work is masterful in demonstrating how archaeology sheds light on this most critical site in antiquity. This book is a good read for anyone interested in Nicaea as an early setting for the development of Christian theology."

John D. Currid, professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Dallas


1. The History of Nicaea and Christian Beginnings in Bithynia
2. The Earliest Christian Places of Worship
3. The Discovery, Excavation, and Research of the Underwater Basilica
4. Was the Underwater Basilica Originally a Converted Pagan Temple?
5. Was the Underwater Basilica a Martyrion?
6. Was the Underwater Basilica the Place of the First Council of Nicaea?
7. The Legacy of Nicaea

General Index
Ancient Texts Index


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Mark Fairchild

Mark R. Fairchild (PhD, Drew University) was professor of Bible and Religion at Huntington University. He spent over twenty years doing research in ancient Anatolia and worked with Mustafa Sahin to direct the excavation of the submerged Basilica. He is author of Christian Origins in Ephesus and Asia Minor (Hendrickson).