According to history, early Christians held their worship services secretly in this 13-meter-deep (43-foot) cave, now called the Saint Peter Church (Senpiyer Kilisesi), 2.5 km (1.5 miles; map) northeast of the center of Antakya.
It was here, they say, that St Peter was selected as the leader and “first bishop” of the church. Extensively restored in 2014, the cave-church was reopened in February 2015.
The term “Christian” was first used here to describe adherents to the new religion, who were proselytized from both the large Jewish community and the even larger number of Gentiles.
St Barnabas and St Paul came to Antakya (Antioch) and stayed a year to spread their new faith.
|Within the cave…|
Crusaders captured Antioch in 1098 on their way to the Holy Land and built the stone screen wall in front of the cave. In 1863 Pope Pius IX asked Capuchin monks to restore it, which they did.
The forecourt of the church and some parts of the interior were used as a cemetery at times.
Today the church is a museum. visited by as many as 250,000 pilgrims each year. Services may be conducted with the permission of the Directorate of Museums.
—by Tom Brosnahan
|History of Antakya|