DENIZLI, Turkey (EWTN News) — An archaeological team working in southwest Turkey says it has uncovered the tomb of St. Philip the Apostle.

Italian professor Francesco D’Andria, head of the excavation team at the ancient city of Hierapolis in the province of Denizli, told reporters on July 26 that experts had reached the apostle’s tomb.

Archaeologists had been working for years to find the tomb, he said. They reached the monument while working on the ruins of a newly unearthed church in Hierapolis, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reports. The city of Hierapolis, whose name means “sacred city,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famous for its historical hot springs and was used as a spa since the second century. It features a mixture of pagan, Roman, Jewish and early Christian influences.

The structure of the tomb and the writings on it prove that it belonged to St. Philip the Apostle, D’Andria said. He characterized the discovery as a major development both for archaeology and the Christian world.

St. Philip was one of the first followers of Jesus, telling others, “Come and see.” During the Last Supper, he asked Jesus to show them God the Father and heard Jesus’ reply: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

After the Resurrection, St. Philip preached in Greece, Syria and the Phrygia region now in west-central Anatolia. He is believed to have died a martyr in the city around the year 80 by being crucified upside down or beheaded.

In his 2006 expositions on the lives of the apostles, Pope Benedict XVI lauded the saint’s “characteristics of true witness.”

St. Philip’s alleged tomb, which has not yet been opened, is expected to become an important Christian pilgrimage destination.