The Church of Saint Peter
The Cave Church of Saint Peter in Antioch or Antakya in Turkey
Antakya is the meeting point of various civilizations and it also plays an important role in the history of religions. In this sense, the Church of Saint Peter, the first Christian Church in history, is an important monument in terms of Hatay’s (Hatay is the name of the province that includes the ancient city Antioch) history and culture. Therefore, you should add this sublime church in your list to visit.
Information about the Cave Church of Saint Peter
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.
Who is St Peter?
St. 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 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.
The History of the Church
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, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities in Cappadocia were used by Christians to hide from the Roman soldiers.
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.
The Church is locally known as Saint Pierre Kilisesi
The Church 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 after 5 A.D., this church witnessed a tremendous improvement and the statue of St Peter was brought to the church in 1932.
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).
Church of Saint Peter Entrance Fee 2020
The entrance fee to Church of Saint Peter in Antakya, Turkey is 30 Turkish Liras. Admission is free for children under 8 years. Museum Pass Turkey is valid for entrance to Hatay St Pierre Kilisesi.
Church of Saint Peter Opening Hours 2020
The Church of Saint Peter in Antakya, Turkey can be visited from 1 April to 31 October from 08:30 in the morning to 19:00 in the evening. During the period between November 1 and April 1, which is accepted as winter period, it closes at 17:00 in the evening.
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.
Note: The name of this historical monument in some sources The Grotto of St. Peter in Antioch.
Written by Serhat Engul