Cross of Jesus Found? Archaeologists Find Fragment in Ancient Turkish Church

August 2, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

“Cross of Jesus found” reports sprung up on Friday after archaeologists said they would what is believed to be a piece of the cross–the one used to crucify Jesus Christ.

The archaeologists were working in Turkey’s Balatlar Church, which dates back to the seventh century, located in the town of Sinop near the Black Sea. They found a stone chest that contained objects that might be associated with Jesus Christ, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

“We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross, and we think it was [part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified],” Professor Gülgün Köroğlu told the paper.

“This stone chest is very important to us. It has a history and is the most important artifact we have unearthed so far,” she continued, adding that his department found the skeletons of more than 1,000 people during four years of excavations.

“During the excavations, we have seen many things that we didn’t know about before. Sinop has gained a very good ancient site that we will show visitors,” said Köroğlu, who is an archaeologist at Turkey’s Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts.

According to NBC News, she said that the chest likely served as a symbolic coffin for the relics of a holy person. She said some of the fragments inside could be associated with the crucifixion of Jesus. The chest was also likely originally owned by a high-ranking church official.

Fragments associated with the cross were sent around the world during ancient and medieval times. Legend has it that St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, found the cross in 325 AD in Jerusalem and sent pieces to Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. The first records of Helena finding the True Cross appeared toward the end of the fourth century.

Köroğlu and her team have been excavating the church since 2009, and they have also found an ancient Roman bath.