Biblical and Early Christian Sites in Turkey

mor gabriel mardin

The Monastery of Stoudios (Istanbul)

Perhaps the most important monastery of Constantinople. Founded in 462 AD by the Concul Stoudios, and became the center of religious poetry in Byzantine. The only part to survive into the 20th century was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, probably the oldest remaining church in Istanbul.

Chora Church (Istanbul)

The first church built in 346, Church of St. Saviour in Chora is located at the edge of Istanbul, near the Land Wall of Emperor Theodosius. Although the exact date of its building is unknown, according to reports from the author Saint Simeon Metaphrastes, who lived at the end of the 10th century, it is understood that the area where the Chora Monastery is located gained importance of being a “necropol” because during the early years of Christianity, the relics of Saint Babylas and his 84 followers who were murdered in Iznik, were buried here at the beginning of the 4th century.

Alexandria Troas (Canakkale)

It was one the major sea ports in the Aegean connecting trade routes in Asia Minor to Neapolis in Macedonia by sea lines and then to Rome by road. The city was founded in 310 BC and dedicated to Alexander the Great. Alexandria Troas is an important site for the history of Christianity, it was mentioned several times in the bible. St. Paul passed some time in Troas during his second missionary journey where he had a vision of a man calling him to Macedonia to help them where he first preached. Alexandria Troas remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Basilica of St. John (Selcuk, Izmir)

The Basilica of St. John was constructed by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It stands over the believed burial site of St. John, who is identified as the apostle, evengalist and prophet. It is a well known legend that St. John wrote his gospel during his stay in Ephesus.

Seven Sleepers Cave (Ephesus-Selcuk)

“Seven Sleepers” were seven young men who were walled up in a cave during the persecutions under the Decius reign. They fell asleep, miraculously waking up around 435 A.D, 200 hundred years later, in the time of Theodosius II. The seven men wandered into the city of Ephesus, amazed at all the churches and the freedom of worship for Christians. The Sleepers later died naturally and were buried in the cave in which they had slept.

The Church of Mary (Ephesus-Selcuk)

The Church of Mary is a church of great historical significance located in Ephesus It is known as the Double Church, because it is thought that one aisle was dedicated to the Virgin and the other to St. John. It is also named the Council Church as it is believed to be where the first Council of Ephesus was held.

Kadifekale of Smyrna (Izmir)

Here lie the excavations from the ancient city of Smyrna. In the first century Smyrna was a thriving port city of the Roman Empire. And in this community a group of Jesus followers came together as a church – one of seven churches addressed in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John, once the young disciple of Jesus Christ. Smyrna is one of the major sites where early Christians from Smyrna and how they were slandered, imprisoned, and martyred. St. Polycarp , Bishop of Smyrna and Holy Martyr (c.69-c 56) is one of the Apostolic Fathers of the Church, namely one of the early witnesses and teachers of the Apostolic traditions of the Christian Church. The narrative of his martyrdom is the first Christian narrative of a martyrdom outside of the New Testament.

The Lycus Valley (Pamukkale/Denizli)

The valley was the centre of three Christian communities in the first century CE, Hierapolis, Laodicea and Colossae. Writings from the New Testament, the Letter to Philemon, the Book of Revelation, and the Letter to the Colossians are associated with two of these centres. The writer attests that the central pastoral minister to the Colossians, Epaphras, ‘has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis’ (Col 4:13) Thus the same Christian preacher is involved in ministry with Christians in these same communities. The same Christian leader held a pastoral responsibility for all three communities, given their relative geographical proximity to each other and the need for a form or style of evangelising ministry that ensured theological coherence and unity.

Pepuza (Usak)

Pepuza was an ancient town in Phrygia, Asia Minor. From the middle of the 2nd century CE to the middle of the 6th century, Pepuza was the headquarters of the ancient Christian church of Montanism, which spread all over the Roman Empire. In late antiquity, both places attracted crowds of pilgrims from all over Roman Empire . Women played an emancipated role in Montanism, becoming priests and also bishops, in the 6th century, this church became extinct.

Sille Village (Konya)

Located in nortwest of Konya,Sille has a long and interesting story. When the Byzantines came into power in Anatolia, the first rock carved monasteries of the world were built here. History mentions Helena’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 327 AD and her amazement upon seeing the engraved temples here belonging to the first ages of Christianity. Empress Helena commissioned a church here in the 4th century AD to commemorate Paul’s visit to Iconium. Today Elena Church or known as “The Sille Aya” is such well-preserved church contains a unique work of art. The church has been very dear to Greek Orthodox Commnunity ans was in use until 1923.

Lystra (Konya)

Lystra is known for being the hometown of St. Timothy, who St. Paul wanted to look after the church in Ephesus. Here, St. Paul preached on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6-22). After he healed a lame man, the superstitious citizens immediately assumed that he was Hermes (messenger of Zeus) and Barnabas was Zeus himself (same as the Roman god Jupiter). Lystra is located about 18 miles soutwest of Iconium and it was not positively identified until the discovery of an insription in that area in 1885. The town now a place of ruins in a small valley watered by a small river flowing to the east. Lystra had once been a military outpost of Rome but declined in population and importance after the area was subdued. It was off the main roads, and its inhabitants spoke their native Lycaonian language rather than the Greek used by most citizens of the Roman Empire in Paul’s day (Acts 14:11)

Perge (Antalya)

Perge was very important port city in ancient times as well as one of the earliest centers for the spreding of Christianity in this region. St. Paul visited the city on his first missionary journeys, in 47 AD, together with St. Barnabas and John Mark. “..St. Paul and his companions took ship from Paphos, Cyprus, and made for Perge in Pamphylia; here John Mark had left them, and went back to Jerusalem. They passed on from Perge, and reached Pisidian Antioch, where they went and took their seats in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. They preached the word of the Lord in Perge, and went down to Attelia, taking ship there for Antioch on the Orontes.” (Acts 14,24).

St. Peter’s Grotto (Antakya)

This cave is widely believed to have been dug by the Apostle Peter himself as a place for the early Christian community of Antioch to meet, and thus to be the very first Christian church. Whether or not this is so, St. Peter did preach in Antioch around 50 AD and the church was established in Antioch as early as 40 AD.

Church of Selecuia Pieria (Antakya)

The church at Selecuia Pieria is an interesting example of early church architecture with a number of pieces of early Christian art. The church is located just inside the walls of the ancient site and in it’s time occupied a prominent position near the harbor street. It was originally built in the late 400 A.D.

The Monastery of St. Gabriel (Mardin)

Also known as Deyrulumur, is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. It is located on the Tur Abdin plateau near Midyat in the Mardin Province in southeastern Turkey. The Monastery’s importance grew and by 6th century there were over 1000 local and Coptic monks there. In the 7th century, the monastery became known as Monastery of St.Gabriel, who was famous for his ascetic life.

Arakelot Monastery (Mus)

Founded in the 4th century by St. Gregory the Iluminator to house various relics he received in Rome.Armenians were the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion: Here, it is widely believed that the monk St. Mesrob invented the Armenian alphabet around the year 404, making it possible for the Bible to be translated into that language. During the post-Byzantine period, the Monastery became a major cultural and religious centre of Taron.