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.
was here, they say, that St
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