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The Old Town of Sozopol

Sozopol is the oldest town along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast and one of the most popular Bulgarian resorts. The central part (the Old Town) is located on a small peninsula. Nearby are the St. Ivan and St. Peter islands. The first settlement at this site was established in the end of the 4th-3rd millennium BC. The underwater explorations in Sozopol’s harbor revealed housing remains, ceramic vessels, and stone and bone working tools from the Bronze Age. Numerous stone anchors and stocks dating from the 2nd-1st millennium BC have also been discovered in the Sozopol bay. There is evidence of active maritime traffic since deepest antiquity. Later, the town became a Hellenic colony, Apollonia Pontica, named after the god Apollo. The town developed into an important trade and harbor center. Wooden and stone churches and numerous houses from the 18th and the 19th century are preserved, shaping the unique architectural image of contemporary Sozopol. Ancient icons and magnificent wood-carved iconostases represent the remarkable achievements of artistic crafts at the time. During archaeological excavations on St. Ivan Island in the summer of 2010, a reliquary was discovered and instigated a genuine sensation. It contained relics – small bones of a hand, a facial part, and a tooth of the saint. Following an experts’ examination it was confirmed that the relics belong to St. John the Forerunner himself. Precisely a part of the skull and one hand of St. John the Baptist were kept in the Patriarchate of Constantinople and were moved to Sozopol during the Ottoman raids. Today, the relics are placed in the St. George Church in Sozopol, which possesses other first-rate Christian relics as well, a small part of the True Cross and relics of St. Andrew.