In Turkey, archaeologists think they may have found the largest underground city in the world — and it was potentially used to hide persecuted Christians.
The discovery, made in the Mardin province in southeastern Turkey, was first reported earlier this month.
The news was initially reported by the Turkish government’s state-run Anadolu Agency, in an article published in Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper.
According to the Anadolu Agency, artifacts dating from the second and third centuries A.D. were found “in an underground city featuring places of worship, silos, water wells and passages with corridors.”
The Jerusalem Post noted the researchers excavating it believe it could be the largest underground city in the world.
The city was in the Midyat district, already known for its rich, historical significance.
“Midyat, which is almost an open-air museum with its history and culture, offers a magical atmosphere to its visitors with stone houses, inns, mosques, churches and monasteries that are thousands of years old,” the Anadolu Agency noted.
It was during a project to clean and conserve the district’s houses that a cave leading to the underground city was discovered two years ago.
“After it was determined that the cave is a passage to different places with corridors, excavation works were launched to unearth the underground city,” the Anadolu Agency reported.
The city is called “Matiate” — and while the archaeological find is not the only such site to be excavated in Turkey, authorities say this one is different.
“Matiate has been used uninterruptedly for 1,900 years,” Gani Tarkan, director of Mardin Museum, told the Anadolu Agency. He’s heading the excavations at Matiate.
“It was first built as a hiding place or escape area. As it is known, Christianity was not an official religion in the second century,” he said.
“Families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution of Rome or formed an underground city.
“Possibly, the underground city of Midyat was one of the living spaces built for this purpose. It is an area where we estimate that at least 60-70,000 people lived underground.”
The excavation of Matiate will now spread to the whole Midyat district.
Tarkan told Turkish state broadcaster TRT World that the implications of excavating the site are massive.
“As of now, we have excavated only 3 percent of it,” he said.
“When all of it is revealed, this will truly be an underground city that will make a worldwide impact.”
It’s also an important reminder of how Christians have survived persecution in even the bleakest of times.
However, Christians have persevered. Where there’s faith, there’s a will and a way — enough of one, it seems, to build an underground city that could house tens of thousands of the faithful.
These Christians were willing to give up life above ground for life after death. Let that be a lesson to all of us.