Sau Marsh Church, The Oldest In The World Under Water
The church of Sant Romà de Sau , in Osona, is the oldest in the world that is preserved standing submerged under water. It is also the one that is the deepest: 23 meters . This has been corroborated by a study carried out by the Official World Record entity in collaboration with the Grup de Recerca de Didactica del Patrimoni of the University of Barcelona.
The church, built in 1061, is in Lombard Romanesque style and has been submerged for more than 50 years , after the reservoir was built in 1962. Its iconic bell tower, which is never completely surpassed by water, has become a symbol and a point of tourist attraction.
In search of records
A year ago, the non-profit organization Official World Record , which is dedicated to recording world records, began an investigation into the church of Sant Romà de Sau. “We wondered how many Romanesque hermitages could exist under the water, but then we extended it to all the churches; it was at that moment when we saw that we were facing a unique situation in the whole world and that no one had verified it until now,” he explains to the ACN its president, David Ventura.
With the documentary investigation, other submerged ancient churches appeared, but the only candidate that could compete was in Turkey : it was a Byzantine temple from the year 303 . But it is three meters deep and only the foundations remain .
To check the depth of Sant Romà de Sau, last summer they organized a dive to make a record , and they observed that it was 23 meters deep. Previously, they had been documented to know the distribution of the monument and how to go through it inside. The immersion was made by Ventura himself, who admits that it was quite an experience: “The swamp has very greenish water and more than a meter you can no longer see anything, it turns black” as it goes down, he remembers. Ventura entered through the door and left through a rear window and, during the inspection, he found that most of the church is well preserved.
More than 50 years submerged
The next step was to publish the record on the web. ” They are two records in one, ” Ventura remarked, since apart from being the oldest in the world under water and right, it is also the one that is deeper.
The old town of Sau originated in 917 and the parish church was consecrated in 1062. After 900 years, in 1962, the swamp was built that covered the entire population , including the church. Since then, the monument has remained submerged and the water level varies depending on the rains.
Also, from the Xarxa de Parcs Naturals de la Diputació de Barcelona they have asked that visitors to the reservoir do not climb the church bell tower , which is located above the water, for reasons of security and conservation of heritage.
A record book in Catalan
This fall, Official World Record will publish its first book where, apart from Sau’s record, other relevant world records will appear . Also, the book, written in Catalan and translated into more than 100 languages , will be in the ‘top 20’ of the most translated texts for the first time in history .
Official World Record is a record of world records founded in Vic in 2010. It works as an oengé and is recognized by the Council of Notaries of the European Union. Thus, any world record can be officially accepted and must go through an International Acceptance Committee and comply with the regulations of each specific record to be accepted, validated and officially registered.