Turkey has many luring aspects of which some are the Mediterranean sun and gorgeous beaches. However, thanks to its colourful history, religious tourism in Turkey is increasing. In specific, the western world is keen to complete Christian pilgrimages to former biblical sites, scattered in abundance over the country.
The history of Christianity in this region is certainly bountiful. Many prominent figures of the religion were born in the boundaries of these lands and also suffered persecution before Christianity was widely accepted under the reign of Constantine, who had also converted.
Some biblical sites of importance were restored and opened to the public, while other significant places are awaiting confirmation, such as Mount Ararat, which is suspected to be the location where Noah’s ark landed.
Prominent Figures of Christian History in Turkey
- It is widely accepted that Saint John wrote his Gospel while living in the city of Ephesus, on the Aegean coast.
- Paul the Apostle was born in the historic city of Tarsus in southern Turkey. Likewise, he also lived in Ephesus and started one of the strongest churches of that time.
- Although never confirmed, many religious experts have suspected the Virgin Mary, lived in Ephesus, at the same time as Saint John.
- The Cappadocian fathers were Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, who all are credited with spreading Christianity within the Anatolian region of Turkey.
Popular Christian Sites to Visit in Turkey
- Ephesus was the second most important city of the Roman Empire. At one stage, persecution of Christians took place en masse and they had to hold secret prayer services. Still existing in certain places, within the ruins are the Ichthies signs that combined the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ. Their purpose was to let Christians know about safe places of worship. (Read more about tours to Ephesus)
- The House of Virgin Mary sits high in the green hills of Selcuk and is funded by the Catholic Church. Although never verified, many Catholics believe this was her last resting place. Since Mary also features in Islam, many Muslims also visit this small house.
- Saint Peters church in the Antioch region of Turkey was carved into the side of a mountain and historians have confirmed that it is one of the oldest churches in the world, maybe even the first.
- Saint Nicholas church near the ruins of Myra in Demre used to hold his remains until Italian sailors looted it. This saint, also known as Father Christmas was born in the nearby region of Patara.
- The Cave churches in Cappadocia are plentiful and at least four days are needed to explore the most historically important. While the churches are impressive, even more stunning are the ancient frescoes inside, that depict scenes from the Bible. (Read more about tours to Cappadocia)
- Saint John’s Basilica is widely believed to be his burial site. Excavations are on-going all the time and sitting in the middle of them, is his untouched tomb.
- The Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, now a public museum, was a mosque but before that, functioned as a church during the Byzantine era. As one of the top attractions within the city, hundreds of people visit it every day. (Read more about tours in Istanbul)
- Sumela monastery is in the Northeast of Turkey receives very little attention, despite its peculiar location on the side of a cliff face.
Tailor your own tour of Christian sites on the Aegean coast of Turkey
While there are many biblical and Christian sites throughout Turkey, the Aegean coast is the most exciting because it has a strong connection to Christianity. An ideal itinerary to explore would be….
- The Seven Churches of Revelation but more specifically Ephesus, Pergamon and Sardis
- The Cave of Seven Sleepers near Ephesus
- The House of the Virgin Mary
- Saint John’s Basilica
- Castle of Saint Peter in Bodrum that was built by the Knights Hospitaller
Contact us for further information and to arrange a Christian tour of Turkey.