Cave Church of St Peter in Southern Turkey
Antioch is one of Turkey's oldest settlements. Throughout its history, it has been a place of accommodation and transit between continents and regions. This made it a cultural center. It was one of the few civilization centers in the world during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This is why there is history in Antioch wherever you dig. Having many historical and natural beauties, Antioch makes a name for itself with its first cave church St Peter, the first mosque of Anatolia, Habib-i Neccar, and the historical Kurtulus Caddesi (Herod Street), which is the first street to be illuminated in the world.
Where is St. Peter Church?
St Peter's Church is located in the west of the Asi River, at the foot of the Pilgrimage Mountain. Although the exact date of construction is not known, the outside of the cave, which is believed to be the place where St Peter preached for the first time, was given the form of a church after Christianity was accepted as the official religion by the Roman Empire.
Christianity, which emerged in the first half of the 1st century AD, spread to Antioc for the first time outside of Jerusalem. Those who believed in Jesus were called Christians for the first time in Antioc.
St Peter Church witnessed the religious life of people who called themselves "Christians" for the first time. It has gained a central position in the spread of the Catholic faith to the world due to the acceptance of the Christian religion, especially St. Peter's as the first Pope.
One of the 12 apostles of Jesus, St. Peter, came to Antioch between 29-40 AD and tried to spread Christianity in this church. He thinks it will be easy to spread the monotheistic religion because the Spice and Silk roads pass through here because of the most important trade routes. During this period, Antioch was the third-largest city of the Roman Empire. It has high and strong walls. It is a city rich in material and cultural aspects.
However, it is not so easy to spread the monotheistic religion. He is threatened with death by pagans. St Peter starts using the cave he found as a church. Secret meetings and worship begin here. This cave, which the first Christians used for secret meetings in Antioch, is considered one of the oldest churches of Christianity.
The name "Christian" was given to the congregation here for the first time in this church where religious meetings were held made St Peter Church one of the first churches of Christianity. St Peter is known as the first church of Christianity before it was divided into Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant sects.
Journey From the Cave to the Church
While Saint Peter Church was a natural cave, it was transformed into a church with additions. The church consists of a cave 13 meters deep, 9.5 meters wide, and 7 meters high, carved into the rocks. Additions were made to the church's front facade by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. The floor of the cave is decorated with mosaics from the 4th and 5th centuries AD. Besides, there is an altar (altar) in the church, a small marble statue of St Peter in the niche, the water deemed sacred, and a tunnel that allows the congregation to escape secretly during the attack.
St Peter Church was declared a "pilgrimage place" by Pope Paul VI in 1963. In the church, a service is held by the Catholic church every year on June 29th. Thousands of local and foreign tourists visit the church, which is open to visitors every day of the week.
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