Tomb of Apostle Philip Found

Discovery made at Hierapolis, one of the major Christian sites in Turkey

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in January 2012.—Ed.


 
philip

Amid the remains of a fourth- or fifth-century church at Hierapolis, one of the most significant Christian sites in Turkey, Francesco D’Andria found this first-century Roman tomb that he believes once held the remains of the apostle Philip. Photo: Archive of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Hierapolis.

At about the same time as the July/August 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review was hitting the newsstands, containing an article about St. Philip’s Martyrium,* author and excavation director Francesco D’Andria was making an exciting new discovery in the field at Hierapolis, one of the most significant sites in Christian Turkey. A month later he announced it: They had finally found the tomb of the martyred apostle Philip.

The tomb wasn’t discovered at the center of the octagonal hilltop martyrium as long expected, however, but in a newly excavated church about 40 yards away. D’Andria’s team found a first-century Roman tomb located at the center of the new church, which he says originally contained Philip’s remains. This early church of Christian Turkey was built around the tomb in the fourth or fifth century, and the nearby martyrium was built around the same time, in the early fifth century.
 


 
In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.
 

 
The remains of the apostle Philip are no longer in the tomb, however. According to D’Andria, the saint’s relics were very likely moved from Hierapolis to Constantinople at the end of the sixth century and then possibly taken to Rome and placed in the newly dedicated Church of St. Philip and St. John (now the Church of the Holy Apostles), although 12th-century reports describe seeing Philip’s remains still in Constantinople, the seat of Christian Turkey.

Tomb of Apostle Philip Found

This sixth-century bread stamp shows two churches from the site of Hierapolis in Christian Turkey: the domed martyrium on the right, and the newly-discovered church containing Philip’s tomb on the left. Photo: © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond/The Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund/Photo: Katherine Wetzel.

This new discovery also sheds light on the wonderful imagery of the rare sixth-century bronze bread stamp from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that we published in our article about Philip’s Martyrium. The structures on either side of the saint can now be identified as the domed martyrium (on the right) and the new Byzantine basilical church containing the tomb of the apostle Philip (on the left), both of which were important Christian sites in Turkey.

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Based on Strata, “Philip’s Tomb Discovered—But Not Where Expected,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2012.
 


 
A team led by excavation director Francesco D’Andria in Hierapolis also uncovered the remains of Pluto’s Gate, a site considered an entrance into the underworld in the Greco-Roman period. Read about it in Bible History Daily.
 

 

Notes:

* Francesco D’Andria, “Conversion, Crucifixion and Celebration,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2011.
 


 

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26 Responses

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  • Kepha says

    What are you doing talking about “Christian Turkey”? In New Testament times, the Turks were still living in the region of Lake Baikal and the Altai Mountains. Before the Turkish conquest in the middle ages, the are was the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. After all, you guys are supposedly in the business of historical clarification, after all.

    No offense meant to the modern nation of Turkey. I, after all, also live in a settler state.

  • Huw says

    It is very difficult to read comments based on what seems to be an arbitrary starting point that takes no account of migration, invasion or other historical events. The rights and wrongs of Greek and Roman migration and conquests aren’t the point, but to fail to see that Christianity preceded Islam and the tribes that mainly followed conquest is unfair to the settled society that was destroyed by invasion. Right or wrong in terms of origin, the Byzantine experiment deserves some respect and not to be dismissed as invaders when the real invaders, like cuckoos, try to own the nest beyond their real tenure.

  • Huw says

    The Turks invaded the lands

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