Turkey, where some of Christianity’s most important and sacred places are located, has been the scene of events of great importance in terms of the history of Christianity. One of the first places of these events is undoubtedly the travels of Saint Paul.
Introduction into Life and Travels of Apostle Paul
Saint Paul undoubtedly has the biggest share in the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Anatolia and from here to Europe. Despite the many difficulties he faced, he fearlessly spread the teachings of Jesus every day and night, even though he knew Rome’s extreme reaction. He visited Syria, Cyprus and Greece, but undoubtedly he spent most of his time in western Turkey.
Saint Paul was previously someone who was not pro-Christian. He threatened and punished Christians in the early parts of his life as is said in the Holy Bible. However a miracle took place and Jesus appeared to him. His eyes became blind. After being informed that Jesus chose Apostle Paul to announce his name to other nations, his eyes were opened and he became a Christian by baptism.
First Journey of Apostle Paul ( 46-48)
It is described in chapter 13 of the “Acts of the Apostles” in the Bible. 13th-21st in the Bible. The chapters describe the journeys of Saint Paul in Anatolia, and then the days he spent and in Rome.
Apostle Paul started his journey from Antiokhia (Antakya) between 46-48 and came to Seleukeia Pieria (Samandağ), a port city, and reached Attalia (Antalya) port via Cyprus (Salamis and Paphos). Apostle Paul reached Perge (Aksu) and Kestros (Aksu) Valley, Pisidia Antiokheia (Yalvac) by land. Continuing on his journey, he visits the cities of Iconium (Konya), Lystra (Hatunsaray Town) and Derbe (Aşıran Village). After returning from the same route, through Pisidia Antiocheia (Yalvaç) and Kestros (Aksu) Valley, Perge (Aksu) reaches Attalia (Antalya) from there. He then completes his journey by reaching Seleukeia Pieria (Samandağ) and Antiokhia (Antakya) without visiting Cyprus by sea.
Second Journey of Apostle Paul (49-52)
The starting point of the Second journey of Apostle Paul is Jerusalem. After a meeting in Jerusalem, Apostle Paul goes to Antiokhia (Antakya) by road. Although they have decided on this journey together, they go on a journey with Saint Silas but later they separate because of a dispute with Saint Barnabas. From Antiokheia (Antakya), Tarsus, Derbe (Aşıran Village), Lystra (Hatunsaray Town), Iconium (Konya), Psidia Antiokheia (Yalvaç), Troas (Çanakkale), and then by sea to Macedonia Neapolis Apostle Paul reaches Philippi. Apostle Paul started visiting the cities of Macedonia on land, visiting Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica and Borea. From there, by sea, Athens goes to Corinth and the cities of Cencrea in Continental Greece. Continuing its journey by sea, it goes back to Anatolia and reaches Ephesus (Selcuk). It also reaches Caesarea (Syria) by sea via Rhodes Island. Jerusalem is the last stop on the journey. After a while, he travels again to the Galatia and the Phrygian Regions by road and goes to Antakya (Antiokheia) to see the condition of the people who converted into Christians on his previous trips and to go on the 3rd trip to see their status.
Third Journey of Apostle Paul (53-57)
After visiting the cities of Derbe (Aşıran Village), Lystra (Hatunsaray Town), Iconium (Konya), Pisidia Antiocheia (Yalvac) by going from Antiokhia (Antakya) by road first to Tarsus and then through the borders of Kilikia Region. (Selcuk) reaches. It passes from Ephesus to Troas (Çanakkale). Apostle Paul continued to Makedonia by sea and stopped in the cities of Macedonia. Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica and Borea. It then reaches Athens and Corinth, located in Continental Greece, by road. Turning back from Corinth, he follows the same route and reaches Troas (Çanakkale) again. Cos (Kos) Island and Rhodes (Rhodes) Island will be the next stop after the visit to Assos (Behramkale), the islands in the Aegean Sea and Miletus (Balat). It passes from Rhodes (Rhodes) to Anatolia and reaches Patara (Kalkan). Continuing its journey by sea again, Tire in Phoenicia completes its journey by coming to Caesarea and Jerusalem (Jerusalem) through the cities of Ptolemais.
Arrest and Last Journey of Apostle Paul to Rome (59-69)
He was arrested and tried by Roman soldiers in Jerusalem. After the trial Apostle Paul passed from Caesarea to Sidon, from there to Antiokhia (Antakya) and Tarsus by sea. Apostle Paul traveled to the cities of Myra (Demre), Cnidus (Datça), Crete (Crete) and the islands of Malta. After continuing his visit to Sicilia (Syracusa), Italy’s Rhegium and Puteoli cities, he was brought to Rome. Apostle Paul got imprisoned in Rome. Then Saint Paul was executed in the year 64 or 67.
Apostle Paul in Turkey
Important Cities Visited by Apostle Paul
Tarsus, which is a very important settlement in terms of Christian history. Tarsus is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list because it is the birthplace of Saint Paul and you should know that Paul is mentioned in the Bible as Paul of Tarsus. Structures related to Paul in Tarsus are as follows;
St. Paul’s Church
Built in the 11th-12th centuries and dedicated to Saint Paul. The church was largely repaired in 1862. Saint Paul’s Church in Tarsus is one of the important pilgrimage centers of Christianity, where Jesus and four Bible writers and angel frescos are exhibited.
Saint Paul’s Well
Well is located where St. Paul was thought to have the courtyard of his house. The water of the well, which is believed to be healing and sacred, never decreases.
Saint. Paul in Antioch
Saint Pierre Church
Saint Pierre Church is considered to be the oldest church in the world. St. Pierre Church is located in the northeast of Antakya. Saint Pierre, Saint Barnabas and Apostle Paul gathered the first Christian congregations here. Saint Pierre, who was considered the first priest after the death of Jesus, came to Antioch and held his first religious meeting in this cave.
Apostle Paul in Perge
Perge is among the cities that St. Paul visited twice on his first trip. He arrived at Perge by sea at the beginning of his first journey. While he was on the way back from his first journey, he came to Perge again and told the words of God to the people of Perge. Today Perge is considered as the starting point of Paul’s road.
Apostle Paul in Iconia (Konya Today)
Apostle Paul and Saint Barnabas arrived in Konya after leaving Yalvaç. Konya has been a spot where they made many effective speeches and have managed to convert many people into Christians. The most important among these people is Hagia Thecla, who is one of the pioneering missionaries of Christianity and became the first female martyr. She was very impressed by the sermons of St. Paul.
Apostle Paul in Ephesus
Apostle Paul first visited Ephesus on his second trip. Here, Apostle Paul went to the synagogues and made speeches on various topics. Apostle Paul responded to the wishes of the Ephesians for a longer stay and said “If God wills, I will come back to you again”. He stayed for a long time in Ephesus when he came once again on his third journey. Apostle Paul spent time between AD 51 and 54 in Ephesus.
Apostle Paul in Demre
Patara is an important part of Demre. Patara is identified with Saint Nicholas, who is the protector of children and sailors. Saint Nicholas, known as Santa Claus all over the world, was born in Patara and served as the Bishop of Demre.
Apostle Paul in Cappadocia
It is thought that the event that led to the formation of the first Christian communities in Cappadocia may be the second journey made by St. Paul. Although it is not mentioned in the Holy Bible, Apostle Paul must have stopped in Cappadocia while going to the Galatia region. Apostle Peter also mentions Christians living here in his first letter.
The Cities Visited by Apostle Paul by the Sea
Apostle Paul traveled a significant part of his journey by sea and he also traveled a large part of Turkey’s western and southern coasts. He started his first journey by sea, as well as on his last trip to Rome he used the sea route and visited some the ports of Anatolia more than once.
- Samandag (Antakya)
- Perge (Antalya)
- Tarsus (Mersin)
- Troas (Çanakkale)
- Ephesus (Izmir)
- Behramkale (Assos)
- Patara (Antalya-Kas)
- Knidos (Muğla-Datça)
Apostle Paul is maybe the most important Christian figure ever lived in Turkey. I always feel proud of being from the same land with him. Also I live very close to Ephesus where he spent a significant part of his life. All my childhood I dreamed of him speaking to thousands of people in Ephesus theater. His messages and his vision are still remembered. I hope one day you will have a chance to see Saint Paul’s Route in Turkey. You can always contact me if you have further questions on Apostle Paul and his Journeys. I am waiting for you if you wish to hire a professional licensed Turkish biblical tour guide. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.