Until recently, much of the glory that had been Alexandria lay deep beneath coffee-colored seawater off the Egyptian coast. Once the intellectual capital of the world — and one of the most powerful and influential patriarchates in the Church — Alexandria produced giants of Christian thought: Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, Alexander, Athanasius, Cyril. Eroding banks, rising seas, and seismic activity left some of its Christian locales invisible beneath the sea — till recent exploration by archeological teams whose equipment could see through coffee. Since so little of ancient Alexandria remains above ground and water, these explorers have given us an extremely rare and precious glimpse of the lives and setting of some of our favorite Fathers.
Many of the artifacts are now temporarily on display in Germany, and were covered by Der Spiegel:
Goddio’s divers recovered most of their finds in Herakleion, a nearby temple city, where they also found Christian artifacts. Alexandria, of all places, was also the birthplace of a new morality. By as early as the Third Century A.D., Herakleion was home to monks living on monastery-like estates. Goddio found 1,500-year-old crosses on the ocean floor, some made of gold, others of lead. The foundation of a church his team excavated in Herakleion is one of the world’s earliest.
These are all relics of a city full of deep contradictions. Alexandria produced some of the most advanced technology of its day. Horizontal looms — a hint of industrial production — rattled away in its factories. But as advanced as it was in some respects, life in this ancient city, spoiled and given to the pleasures of the flesh, lacked inner strength.
But most of all Alexandria was the kind of place New York is today — the center of a globalized world.