The first church of the world in Hatay attracts visitors

The Hatay Province hosts one of the prominent cities reflecting that feature of Anatolia.

The provincial seat Antakya (ancient Antioch) is regarded a centre of faith and the city of brotherhood of religions because the shrines of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths stand side by side or in a close proximity.

The holiest structure for the city’s Christians, the Cave Church of Saint Peter, regarded as “the first church of the world”, is also here.

The church was established in a natural cave of 13 metres wide and 7 metres high, and it is believed to be used by Saint Peter, the Preeminent Apostle and the first pope to spread the message of Jesus Christ.

Another aspect of importance for Christianity is the fact that the name Christian was first given here to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

The Church of St. Peter was inscribed in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage in 2011.

The partially visible floor mosaics from the 5th century and the traces of frescoes on the wall adjoining the altar, indicate the previous glory of the Church.

However, majority of the mosaics and frescoes were adversely affected over the centuries due to the physical conditions.

The Church of Saint Peter was declared a site of pilgrimage in 1963 by the Pope Paul VI, and the Feast of Saint Peter is celebrated in the Church with religious services conducted by priests coming from different regions on June 29th every year.

The history of Hatay goes back to the 5th millennia BC, and the city has been the site of successive civilisations.

Its cultural heritage today is enriched by the traces of those diverse civilisations.

Alongside the various important religious structures, there are many other interesting sites to visit in Hatay: the Charonion, dated to 175-164 BC, is a gigantic bust of Charon (the mythological ferryman who carried the souls of deceased to the other world), carved to the cliff face near the Cave Church of Saint Peter; built in Antiquity, the Citadel of Antioch has one of the longest ramparts in Turkey; the Titus- Vespasian Tunnel from the 1st century AD; and, Trajan’s Aqueduct from the 2nd century AD.

Also you may visit the Archaeological Museum of Hatay, which has one of the largest collections of ancient mosaics of the world.

The Cave Church of Saint Peter is at the foot of Mount Starius (Hac Dağı), two kilometres northeast of the city centre.


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