Second day in Turkey was short and sweet. It was a Wednesday. And both because of the amount of distance we had to travel, and because we needed time for our own Wednesday Evening Service before going to bed, our one and only holy site destination was the Cave Church of St. Peter in Antakya, or Syrian Antioch.
Yes, compared to yesterday, it was less packed, but the importance of Syrian Antioch cannot be stressed enough. The Bible states that this was where Christians were fist called...well, "Christians"! (Acts 11:26)
A quick history of this place is that it's believed to have been founded by St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. Whether this is true or not, Peter DID in fact preach in this area (Antioch) around 50AD. It became a major hub for Christians in those days and was also the base for Paul's earlier mission trips. Later on (as in about 1050yrs later), the Crusaders were in control of this area from 1098~1268 and created the stone facade of the church.
About a 3 hour drive from the hotel, we arrived at the Cave Church of St. Peter. (aka Sen Piyer Kilisesi in Turkish)
It's basically an adorned cave on the mountainside of Mt. Starius. And it is one of the oldest churches known.
The bus drove up the side of the mountain and parked. We walked up a short ramp to the gate of the church grounds. If you go as an individual, you will have to purchase a ticket.
(Also fyi, the bathroom and a very small museum store are located in the basement.) We gathered in the yard right outside the cave/church. This yard was used as a cemetery for hundreds of years.
At the moment the yard is gated. The cave also has 3 entrances, but only one side entrance is being used. This is quite understandable concerning that mosaics as old as 1500~1600 years are found in this cave. Despite being an unlit cave, the sunlight shining through from the outside brightened up the whole place.
Inside the cave, there is an altar against the back wall of the church. In that back wall, above the altar, you can see a small statue of St. Peter. And as you face the altar, on the right side, there is a small faucet. I saw this repeatedly in Turkey where the holy sites had running water. The water was used for drinking as well as baptism.
On the left side, there was a small entrance which seemed like a cave inside a cave (weird...i know). As I walked in, it turned out to be more like a small cove. However, there was a tiny tunnel leading upwards. Later I realized that the purpose of this tunnel was for escaping! Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the tunnel. It was quite Shawshank-esque.
There's also an explanation framed inside the cave. (you can read by zooming in!)
. . . . . . .
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Now in the days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. Acts 11:25~27