Saint Peter’s Cave Church in Antakya is among the must-see places in Turkey. This monumental church in Antioch, one of the most important cities of early Christianity, is a museum today. You can find information about the history of the St Peter Church in this article. In addition, the entrance fee and opening hours of the Cave Church of Saint Peter (locally known as St Pierre Church) are also noted.
The Cave Church of Saint Peter is located on Antakya-Reyhanli road nearby Neccar Mountain and it was built on a natural cave. There is no certain information on the exact date the church was founded and most of the information on this subject is based on rumors. It’s been suggested that the first community called Christians was the group attending this church.
About Saint Peter
Saint Peter was one of twelve disciples of Jesus Christ and also the brother of St. Andrew, another disciple of Jesus. According to Bible, St Peter used to be a fisherman before he took heed of Jesus’ call. His real name was Simon and he was named as “The Rock” by Jesus himself.
There are many stories in Bible about St Peter. According to a well-known one, Petrus tells Jesus that he could never catch fish and Jesus asks him to throw his net into the sea again. Once he does that, he sees too many fishes in his net to carry.
According to the stories and historians of Christianity, Petrus never left Jesus until the day he was crucified. After the crucifixion of Jesus, St Peter began to spread Christianity in Israel and Antioch as per Jesus’ last will. He is regarded as the first founder of Christian group after Jesus and the first pope. In short, St Peter was loyal to Jesus and his teachings till the end of his life.
Antioch was the center of trade routes between Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Antioch stood out as the most strategic city during the Roman-Persian and then the Byzantine-Arab wars.
One of the 5 most important bishops in the Christian Roman Empire was in this city. Antioch was one of the five major episcopal sees of the Roman Empire, along with Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem.
History of the Cave Church of St Peter
The history of St Peter’s Cave Church goes back over 2000 years. After Jesus’ death, the apostles went to the most important cities of the ancient world to spread Christianity. One of them was Antioch. According to some historians, Saint Peter gathered the first Christian community here.
According to the rumors, St Peter and his followers used this cave in Antioch to hide from the Roman soldiers and pray. It’s believed that the name “church” was used for the first time to describe this cave. It’s also rumored that St Peter was killed in one of the tunnels of the cave while trying to escape from the Roman soldiers.
According to another story, Saint Peter the Apostle went as far as Rome and he continued spreading Christianity with St Paul. Meanwhile, he was caught by the Romans and he was crucified like Jesus Christ. Where he died in Rome stands Vatican where the Pope resides. And on his grave stands St Peter’s Basilica, the biggest church of Italy.
As known, Christianity was a forbidden religion during the Roman Empire era. This ban lasted until 313 when Emperor Constantine announced the Edict of Milan. Following the edict, Christians were given the freedom to practice their religion.
However, the three centuries between AD 30, the date regarded as Jesus’ death date, and 313 was hard for Christians. Christians were persecuted because of their beliefs and they had to pray secretly to avoid mistreatment. For example underground cities in Cappadocia were used by Christians to hide from the Roman soldiers.
The Churches in Christian Rome
In the early period, cave churches in Cappadocia, Antioch and Ephesus were places where Christians worshiped secretly. On the other hand, the same churches received great attention in Christian Rome.
When Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire (Emperor Theodosius I era), this cave was turned into a church in gothic style with some adjustments. Some additions such as an altar and a preaching space were added to this church. Especially in 400s, this church witnessed a tremendous improvement.
Pope Paul VI recognized the Church of St Peter as a holy site and it’s visited every year by Christians all around the world on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 28-29) and the Feast of the Chair of St Peter (February 21).
Off The Beaten Path Places in Turkey
If you want to see off the beaten path places in Turkey, you can visit places like St Peter’s Church in Antakya, Mount Nemrut in Adiyaman, Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, Ani Ruins in Kars, Gobekli Tepe in Sanliurfa and Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep.
The Anatolian peninsula, on which Turkey is located, has hosted countless civilizations for thousands of years. There is a lot to discover regarding the neolithic period, antiquity and late antiquity in Turkey. You can learn a lot about ancient civilizations by visiting the places I mentioned above.
Cave Church of St Peter Entrance Fee 2021
The entrance fee to Cave Church of Saint Peter is 30 Turkish Lira as of 2021. Admission is free for children under 8 years. Museum Pass Turkey is valid for entrance to St Peter Church in Turkey. It should be noted that the name of the church in the local language is St Pierre Church of Hatay (official name of Antioch).
Cave Church of St Peter Opening Hours 2021
Cave Church of Saint Peter opening hours are between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm between April 1 and October 1, which is considered as the summer season. The memorial museum closes at 4pm in the winter season.
Visiting times of the museum may change due to various activities, pilgrimage period or renovations. So before you go, you can visit the museum’s official website to see the latest status.
Some Useful Notes
St Peter’s Cave Church is named in some sources as The Grotto of St Peter in Antioch. You can also see that it is referred to as Hatay St Pierre Kilisesi in local sources.
Antakya (with its name referring to Antioch in the old language) is a name given to a district of the modern city of Hatay in Turkey. Antakya, the historical area of the city of Hatay, is famous for its Greco-Roman and early Christian heritage.
History of the Cave Church of St Peter by Serhat Engul