Newly discovered frescoes of 'fighting Jesus' challenge Christian traditions
An ancient church, long buried in Turkey’s central Cappadocia region, has been unearthed by archaeologists who think it could transform how we interpret early Christian belief.
Unique frescoes found in the church, believed to date back to the fifth century, show Jesus killing bad souls and fighting the devil, which runs contrary to mainstream interpretations in which good and evil are constantly jostling for control.
The rock-carved underground church has been found in a castle in the heart of Nevsehir, a mostly buried ancient city covering about 360,000 square metres where archaeologists are conducting a string of large-scale excavations.
According to Turkish daily Hurriyet, Nevsehir mayor Hasan Unver said the frescoes depict Jesus ascending into the sky and killing the bad souls.
“We know that such frescoes have so far never been seen in any other church,” Unver said.
“This place is even bigger than the other historical churches in Cappadocia. It was built underground and has original frescoes that have survived to this day,” he said.
“It is reported that some of the frescoes here are unique. There are exciting depictions like fish falling from the hand of Jesus Christ, him rising up into the sky, and the bad souls being killed. When the church is completely revealed, Cappadocia could become an even bigger pilgrimage centre of Orthodoxy,” Unver added.
Modern-day Istanbul was for centuries the capital of the Byzantine Empire. While Turkey has long been a Muslim-majority country, it continues to house many ancient Christian sites like churches and monasteries.
Archaeologist Ali Aydın told Anadolu Agency that the excavations had stopped temporarily while teams worked to dry out the frescoes
“We have stopped work in order to protect the wall paintings and the church. When the weather gets warmer in the spring, we will wait for humidity to evaporate and then we will start removing the earth,” he said.
“Only a few of the paintings have been revealed. Others will emerge when the earth is removed. There are important paintings in the front part of the church showing the crucifixion of Jesus and his ascension to heaven.
“There are also frescoes showing the apostles, the saints and other prophets Moses and Elyesa,” he added.