Sites of Faith in Turkey

St. Nikolaus Kirche - Antalya
Turkey, situated on the Anatolian peninsula has been the cradle for a number of civilizations throughout history. This was an important crossroad in the region which linked three continents known as the “Old World.” During the polytheistic era in this region, many shrines were built and dedicated to gods and goddesses. As monotheism gradually spread throughout the region, its influence led believers to dedicate some places as sites of faith. Especially in Turkey, a number of these religious sites, artifacts and relics can be found in practically every region of the country. The names of some of these sites are found in the holy books and they have left an indelible mark in the course of history. These sites of faith assist us in recreating an image of this historical past.

 

Anatolia has been the cradle of numerous civilizations for thousands of years and the birthplace of the three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In Turkey, a number of faith sites can found in every region of the country. These sites of faith assist us in recreating an image of the historical past.

 

 

 

Sites of Faith in Turkey

 

Agri Dagi (Mt. Ararat)

 

According to the Old Testament, this is the place where Noah’s Ark Landed.

 

Ahlat

 

Seljuk Mausoleums and tombstones

Magnificent Seljuk stone carvings from the 12th and 13th centuries are found here. The Ahlat area has many tombstones and mausoleums.

 

Amasya

 

Sultan Beyazid II Mosque Complex

This mosque, a 15th century work of art, was dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid the Second.

 

Ankara (Ancyra)

 

Haci Bayram Veli was a prominent Sufi leader known for his immense tolerance. This complex contains a 15th century mosque and memorial shrine (turbe). It is a adjacent to the 3rd century temple of Augustus which was built on the temple foundation of the moon god, Men.

 

Antakya (Antioch)

 

St.Peter’s Grotto

The followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas were sent on their first missionary journey from this cave church. They sailed from Selucia Peria.

 

Bursa

 

Yesil Turbe (Green Shrine)

This is a part of a 15th century monumental Ottoman Complex consisting of a tomb, mosque and medrese (theological school). Bursa also contains mosques from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Green Mosque is the largest mosque in Bursa. Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.

 

Cappadocia (Goreme)

 

Here the early Christians took refuge from Roman persecution. Numerous religious cave paintings display evidence of early Christianity. This is a unique, fascinating region in Turkey with its “fairy chimneys” carved out of volcanic rock.

 

Demre –Kale (Myra)

 

St.Nicholas (Santa Claus) Church and Museum

St.Nicholas was born in Patara, Turkey and served as archbishop of this church in Myra during the 14th century.

 

Divrigi

 

Ulu Mosque

This is a 13th century Seljuk Mosque. Here you can discover pulpits carved from ebony trees, monuments carved from stone and immense portals. A portion of this building served as a hospital and medical faculty.

 

Efes  (Ephesus)

 

This pilgrimage center for Christians was home to the Virgin Mary and St. John Ephesus is the first of the churches mentioned in Revelation chapters 1-3. The amphitheater here is the location where the craftsmen who made shrines of Artemis rioted against the apostle Paul. The house of the Virgin Mary is on Bulbul Mountain near St.John Basilica. The third ecumenical council convened in the church of the Virgin Mary in A.D. 431.

 

Erzurum

 

Cifte (Twin) Minaret Medrese

This is a 13th century theological school. The minarets are decorated with a unique tile design. The doors are magnificent example of stone carving.

 

Eskisehir (Seyitgazi)

 

Seyid Battal Gazi Complex

This Seljuk and Ottoman complex also dates from the 13th century. Battal Gazi was a commander and a hero who joined the campaign against the Byzantines.

 

Hacibektas

 

Haci Bektas-i Veli Complex

The famous Sufi dervish leader of the Bektasi order is buried here. This 14th century complex includes tombs, guest houses, a kitchen, a mosque, a wishing tree and a area for ascetics, as well as famous sayings of Haci Bektas-I Veli.

 

Harran (Haran)

 

The Bible records that Abraham lived here with his father. Terah, died here. Harran is known for its interesting cone and cubic shaped dwellings and contains ruins of the oldest university in this region.

 

Istanbul

 

Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Museum

One of the most important Christian monuments of all time, this ancient basilica, built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century is one of the architectural marvels of the world.

 

Kariye (Chora) Museum

This 11th century church of St.Savior in Chora is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in Istanbul. Its frescoes and mosaics from the 14th century are superb.

 

Ahrida and Neve Shalom Synagogues

Ahrida was founded in the 15th century by Macedonian Jews and restored in the 17th century. Neve Shalom Synagogue, despite being relatively new, is the most important Jewish synagogue in Istanbul.

 

Holy Muslim Relics

Topkapi Palace houses the most important exhibit featuring the prophet Muhammed’s personal belongings, a cloak, tooth, beard hair, letter, official seal, flag, two swords, a bow, and his footprints. These and other holy relics of Islamic leaders were brought to Istanbul by Ottoman Yavuz Sultan Selim the first.

 

Konya (Iconium)

 

Mevlana Complex

The tomb of Mevlana Celaleddin-I Rumi, the most important humanistic and Islamic mystic philosopher, is here. The complex, built in the 14th century, was the center for the religious order of whirling dervishes and a place housing priceless works of art.

 

Mardin

 

Deyrulzafaran Monastery

This is one of the most important monasteries belonging to the Syrian Jacobites and is still active today. Mor Gabrial Monastery is also in this area.

 

Pamukkale (Hierapolis)

 

A natural white wonderland, Pamukkale is the ancient city where St. Philip was martyred. Remnants of an on octagonal basilica built in the 5th century lie here. Laodicea is across the valley from Pamukkale’s hot springs.

 

Siirt (Baykan)

 

Veysel Karani Complex

This complex was built in honor of the Prophet Muhammed’s beloved friend, Veysel Karani. He died in the Azerbaijan Campaign of Arabs and was buried here.

 

Sanli Urfa (Ur)

 

Rizvaniye Mosque and Halil-ur Rahman Lake

This is the place where according to the legend, the prophet Abraham was thrown into a fire, but by a miracle, the fire turned into a pool. The legend says wood from the fire turned into fish.

 

Sart (Sardis)

 

This ancient synagogue built in the 3rd century A.D. is the most important archeological discovery in the Sardis excavations. It is one of the oldest synagogues in Anatolia.

 

Tarsus

 

St.Paul’s Well

Tarusu was the apostle Paul’s birthplace and people believe that the water from the well situated house where he lived in holy.

 

Trabzon

 

Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Museum

This museum, constructed as a church in the 13th century, displays the most important example of Byzantine frescoes.

 

Macka Sumela Monastery

Situate in a very beautiful natural setting, Sumela Monastery, built in the 14th century, is nestled into the face of a cliff in a famous valley.

 

Van (Akdamar)

 

Akdamar Museum

Akdamar is an island in Lake Van featuring works of art in the 10th century church of the Holy Cross. Stone carvings on the walls of the church are noteworthy.

 

Yalvac (Psidia Antiocheia)

 

St.Paul’s Basilica

St.Paul preached in a synagogue now buried underneath this basilica before continuing on to Iconium.

 

 

Journey Through The Anatolian Civilizations

 

Anatolia, the heartland of modern Turkey, is the cradle of great civilizations. More than a dozen have been born and flourished here during the past 10,000 years. From 2000 BC to 1600 AD, Anatolia was the very heart of the civilized world, at the crossroads of cultural and artistic currents emanating from Europe, Asia and Africa.

 

The name Anatolia means “Land of the Mother Sun.” Several of this land’s ancient civilizations cherished the sun and devised sacred symbols for it. The warmth of the Anatolian sun is alive today in the smiles of its inhabitants, the modern Turks.

 

The great humanistic values do not change. Though nations and peoples may rise and decline, and governments may come and go, the value of history, art, culture and tolerance for all are eternal and universal.

 

The Turkish people share in those values. For many peoples, Anatolia was a place of refuge and a land of freedom. Many came here to escape oppression in the lands of their birth, and contributed their share to Anatolia’s long history of cultural and humanistic greatness. A welcome to all, and tolerance for all, is a belief deeply rooted in the land itself, and in Turkish society.

 

The tolerant beliefs of the famous Turkish philosopher Mevlana (Celaleddin Rumi), who lived in Konya during the 13th century, symbolize Turkish society’s ideal of tolerance, and still guide people throughout the world today. Mevlana’s philosophy is best illustrated in his own words:

 

Come, come whoever you are,

An infidel, a pagan or a fire – worshipper, come.

Our convent is not of desperation.

Even if you have broken

Your vows of repentance a hundred times,

Come, come again.

The spirit of Mevlana’s tolerance is shared by all of Turkey’s people today. The great founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, expressed the same spirit in his famous motto “Peace at Home, Peace Throughout the World.”

 

This is the modern Turkey, or Anatolia meaning “Land of the Mother Sun,” a place of welcome and peace for all.

 

 

 

SEVEN JOURNEYS TO ANATOLIA:

EPISODE I

 

NOAH’S LEGACY TO MANKIND

 

According to the legend of the great flood, Noah’s Ark ran aground at Mount Ağrı (Ararat). When the flood waters receded, Noah and his family descended the mountain towards the fertile Iğdır Plain, whence their descendants moved west- and southwestward along the Fırat (Euphrates) and Dicle (Tigris) Rivers, thus establishing the second generation of humankind.

 

Mount Ağrı (5165 meters), near Doğubayazıt, is still Turkey’s most spectacular natural monument, and a very popular subject for the world’s nature photographers, who come to capture the mountain’s biblical majesty.

 

The spectacular İshak Paşa Palace just outside Doğubayazıt was built by İshak Paşa, Ottoman governor of the province in the 17th century.

 

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Lake Van, ringed by beautiful mountains, at an altitude of 1,720 meters, is the largest lake in Turkey. You can circle the lake, visiting several ancient Urartian sites, Turkish historical art and cultural centers and beautiful castles as well as other places that represent the legacies of the various peoples who inhabited the area.

 

Some of the islands in Lake Van have monasteries and churches built on them. Akdamar Island, southwest of Van, Is the most important of these. A half-hour boatride takes you out to see the 10th-century Church of the Holy Cross, now a museum, whose stone walls are richly carved with scenes and figures from the Old Testament.

 

EPISODE II

 

“UNFORGETTABLE JOURNEY”

THROUGH THE LAND OF REBECCA AND RACHEL

 

Old Şanlı Urfa, with its wealth of biblical associations, is known as the “Jerusalem of Anatolia.”

 

According to the Old Testament, the Patriarch Abraham (“grandfather of great religions”) was born in the city of Ur, in the Chaldea region. Not far from the Fırat (Euphrates) River in southeastern Turkey, Şanlı Urfa’s ancient name was Ur or Edessa. Abraham and his family lived in Ur for many years. Then, following God’s direction, they migrated to Harran, “home of the patriarchs.” Abraham’s father Terah died in Harran, and Abraham had two sons: Isaac, by Sarah, and Ishmael, by Hagar. Abraham then took Hagar and their son Ishmael to Mecca. The Prophet Mohammed Is a descendant of Ishmael. According to the Old Testament, Abraham’s son Isaac married Rebecca, a woman from Harran, who was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

 

The family ties continued to remain strong in the next generation, Rebecca bore Isaac twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac told his son Jacob to go back to the crossroad of Harran, “the home of Bethuel thy mother’s father, and there find a wife from among the daughters of Laban, thy mother’s brother.”

 

On Jacob’s journey to find a wife, he met a number of shepherds who were herding their sheep near a well in Harran. Among them was Rachel, a “daughter of Laban” who was fated to become his wife. The well at which they first met is now called “Jacob’s Well.” Rachel and Jacob had a son, whom they named Joseph, whose descendants Included Moses, King David, and Jesus.

 

Although Abraham did not live in this area for his entire life, he did leave many reminders of his time here. In Şanlı Urfa there is a cave thought to be Abraham’s birthplace. It has become a place of pilgrimage, and is now surrounded by the Halil Rahman Mosque, gardens, arcaded courtyards, a lake filled with sacred fish, and dovecotes filled with pigeons. This wonderful atmosphere is completed by the grandmothers and grandfathers and their youngsters dressed in local dresses that were worn by their ancestors and the founders of great religions.

 

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

 

The Southeastern Anatolian Project is the largest and most multifaceted development project in Turkey, as well as one of the largest development projects in the world. The project includes active farming with extensive irrigation systems and electricity production. It will also benefit the tourism, mining, petrol, education, health, communication and transportation sectors. The Southeastern Anatolian Project covers the lower parts of the Fırat (Euphrates) and Dicle (Tigris) Rivers and the provinces of Gazi Antep, Şanlı Urfa, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Mardin, Siirt, Batman and Şırnak on the plains between the rivers. Both rivers act as natural boundaries for the biblical Garden of Eden. Upon entering the Garden of Eden from Gazi Antep, take a stroll along the western bank of the Fırat (Euphrates) River and dive into the holy past.

 

Adıyaman and Kahta make good bases from which to visit Nemrut Dağı (Mount Nemrut) National Park. You can hire transportation in either town. On the summit of Nemrut Dağı (2150 meters), the highest mountain in Northern Mesopotamia, sits the gigantic funerary sanctuary erected in the first century BC by King Antiochus I of Commagene. The engineering involved continues to amaze visitors: a gigantic artificial tumulus of crushed rock is flanked by terraces on which rest colossal statutes of Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, Tyche and King Antiochus. The huge statues have been damaged by earthquakes and weather, and the heads of the seated torsos now rest at their feet.

 

Diyarbakır (Amida) has been the home of 26 civilizations during its 5000-year history. The city is spread across a basalt plateau close to the banks of the Dicle (Tigris) River. The black basalt triple walls encircle the old town. These ramparts— 5.5 km in length, with 16 towers and 5 gates—are decorated with inscriptions and bas-reliefs, and represent a superb example of medieval military architecture.

 

From a distance, the golden stone houses of Mardin blend into the rock of the hills on which the city is built. On closer inspection, the stone carving and decoration of the houses and public buildings reveal the city to be an architectural treasure chest. The Ulu Mosque, Mardin’s oldest, was built in 1186 during the reign of the Artukid ruler Kutbeddin Ilgaz. The 15th-century Kasım Paşa Medrese is remarkable for its fine stonework. At the İsa Bey Medrese, which dates from the 14th century, you can admire the magnificently carved portal and climb to its roof to enjoy a fantastic view of the Mesopotamian Plain. East of Mardin is the Syriac-Jacobite Monastery of Deyrulzafaran, once a thriving religious community, which still welcomes visitors.

 

Siirt was an especially eminent city at the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. At Aydınlar (Tillo), northeast of Siirt, the 18th-century İbrahim Hakkı Mausoleum Complex and nearby private İbrahim Hakkı Astronomical Museum are worth a visit, İbrahim Hakkı was a famous 18th-century Turkish author and scholar whose most famous work was the Marifetname. He was also an astronomer and devoted his entire life to astronomy and science. His respected teacher Saint Fakirullah is also buried here.

 

The Saint Veysel Karani Mausoleum is located in Baykan at the Siirt-Diyarbakir-Bitlis crossroad. This complex was built in honor of the Prophet Muhammed’s beloved friend, St. Veysel Karani, who died during the Arabs’ Azerbaijan campaign and was buried here.

 

EPISODE III

 

CRADLE OF THE SAINTS

 

The biblical city of Antakya (Antioch), once the third largest city in the Roman Empire, was the headquarters of St. Paul’s missionaries and the base for several missionary journeys. The New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 11, verse 26) declares that the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” here. Saints Peter, Paul and Barnabas all preached here. Visit the cave- church where St. Peter gave his first sermon. South of the church is the Iron Gate which was one of the main entrances to biblical Antioch. Strolling through the old part of the city, you can almost hear the footsteps of Saints Paul, Peter, Barnabas and others. Antakya also has a world- famous museum of Roman mosaics. Nearby Çevlik (Seleucia Peria) is mentioned in the New Testament as the port from which Sts. Paul and Barnabas set sail for their first missionary journey to Antalya and Perge (45-46 AD).

 

East of Mersin, on the edge of the fertile Çukurova Plain is Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul (10 AD). It is well known for the sacred water found in the well in the garden of St. Paul’s house. The deep chasms known as Cennet and Cehennem (Heaven and Hell) are located west of Tarsus. In the Vale of Heaven are the ruins of an early Christian chapel. Near Silifke are the church and tomb of Saint Thecla (Ayatekla), known as the first female Christian martyr.

 

EPISODE IV

 

MAGNIFICENT PASTORAL VISTA

 

Trabzon, near the eastern end of the Black Sea coast, was founded in the 7th century BC by Miletian colonists. It was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond which survived for a few years after the conquest of Byzantine İstanbul. The Byzantines ruled here until 1461 when the Ottomans conquered the area. The restored 13th century Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia, used for centuries as a mosque and now the Ayasofya Museum, is the jewel of Trabzon’s Christian monuments. Splendid frescoes, some of the finest examples of Byzantine painting, cover the interior walls.

 

Altındere National Park provides a magnificent setting for the 14th century Sumela Monastery, the “monastery in the clouds”, perched on a cliff face 270 meters above a deep gorge. Surrounded by the ruins of the monks’ dwellings, the monastery’s main church is covered Inside and out with brilliant frescoes. Southeast of Trabzon, Uzungöl, a lovely alpine lake surrounded by mountains and meadows, is an excellent camping, hiking and fishing destination.

 

Rize is set at the base of mountain slopes covered in tea bushes which look like puffy green pillows. Be sure to see this typical Black Sea city’s 16th century İslam Paşa Mosque and the remains of its Genoese castle. From the Ziraat Park you can take in a splendid panorama of the whole area. Turning inland you come to the beautiful little town of Çamlıhemşin straddling a rushing alpine stream. Nearby is the Fırtına Vadisi (Storm Valley) with stone bridges from Byzantine times, and the beautiful Zil Castle. Relax in one of the area’s many hot springs. For those who like mountain climbing, this is the best starting point for scaling the Kaçkar Mountains, the natural beauty of which is protected in Kaçkar Dağları National Park. This emerald mountain range is among Turkey’s best and most challenging.

 

On the way to Artvin there is a wonderful alpine lake, Karagöl, with various pine trees, flora and fauna. The road to Artvin traverses the Cankurtaran mountain pass, where verdant landscape changes to barren rocks. Hatilla Valley National Park is another beautiful place to see in the region. The canyons inside the park, with their sheer cliffs and vertical drops, are quite dramatic. Because of its unique microclimate, both Mediterranean and Black Sea flora flourish in the park.

 

A winding drive midway up a mountainside takes you to Artvin, the capital of the province of the same name. At the foot of an escarpment, a ruined 16th-century castle crowns a rocky outcrop. Clinging to the mountainside high above, Artvin is a charming city with beautiful old Turkish houses, typical of the region. This area came under Georgian sovereignty during the Middle Ages, making Artvin a good base for touring remains of the Georgian past. Wonderfully scenic roads lead to the ruined churches and settlements that stand as a legacy of this period. The best preserved of these are at Barhal and İşhan, Hamamlı, Dörtkilise, Köprügören and Tekkale. Ardanuç, formerly a Georgian capital, has a famous castle which overlooks the longest canyon in the region.

 

East from Artvin Is Şavşat, an alpine town surrounded by meadows of wild flowers and butterflies, rushing streams and quaint chalets. The local women’s organization has established a weaving instruction center in an attempt to keep local carpet and kilim traditions alive. Karagöl – Sahara National Park has one of the beautiful Karagöl alpine lakes and the famous, beautiful Sahara Plateau.

 

EPISODE V

 

THE CELTIC ENIGMA

 

Celts, the indigenous people of Europe, faced oppression from the Romans during the 4th century BC. As a result, some Celts migrated through the Balkans and across the Bosphorus to Central Anatolia. According to historical records, Ankara was first established by the Celts and made their regional—one of the earliest Celtic capital cities in the world. The Celts called their new city Ancyra, meaning “anchor’, one of the oldest words in the language of the sea-loving Celts. The Celtic region, which included Ankara, Yozgat, Sivas, Konya and Cappadocia, flourished after coming under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Temple of Augustus, which is the most important ancient architectural monument in Ankara, was built by the Galatian King Pylamenes in the first century AD. Inscribed on its walls is the “Monument Ancyranum,” the sole surviving “Political Testament” of Augustus detailing his achievements. In the fifth century, the temple was converted into a church by the Byzantines. Not very far from the temple is the spectacular Ankara Citadel. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations next to the Citadel displays ancient Hatti, Hittite and later treasures. In Ankara’s Anittepe district, the Mausoleum of Atatürk (Anıtkabir) is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern Anatolian architectural styles.

 

All the major early-Hittite sites lie in the province of Çorum, in Boğazkale – Alacahöyük National Park, northeast of Ankara. Impressive double walls running past the Royal Gate, the Lion Gate and the Yer Kapı (an underground tunnel), ring the Hittite city of Hattuşaş, known today as Boğazkale. The more than 70 temples in the city made this the Hittite religious center and gave it the name, “City of Temples.” On the eastern slopes of Hattuşaş, the Yazılıkaya, an open-air rock pantheon dating from the 13th century BC, contains fine reliefs of all the Hittite gods and goddesses.

 

Set in a narrow gorge of the Yeşilırmak (Iris) River, Amasya dates from the third century BC. The ruins of the citadel rise from the craggy rock and contain an Ottoman palace and a secret underground passageway. Hewn into the rock face above the city, impressive Roman rock tombs are illuminated at night, creating a spectacular image. The beauty of the natural surroundings and the splendid architectural legacy have combined to endow the city with the accolade of one of the most beautiful cities In Turkey. Among the sights of interest for visitors are the 13th-century Seljuk Burmali Minare Mosque, the Torumtay Tomb, the Gökmedrese Mosque, the 14th-century İlhanid Hospital with lovely reliefs around its portal, the 15th century Beyazıt I Mosque Complex and the unusual octagonal Kapı Ağa Medrese.

 

Tokat, also on the Yeşilırmak River, has many Seljuk and Ottoman monuments which lend a picturesque yet solemn aesthetic to the cityscape.

 

Sivas, an important commercial center during the Middle Ages, stood at the junction of the caravan routes to Persia and Baghdad. Between 1142 and 1171 it was the capital of the Danişmend Emirs and a vitally important urban center during Seljuk rule. The remaining architectural monuments reflect this formerly prominent position. The Ulu Mosque dates from the Danişmend Emirate. The Seljuk buildings include the 13th-century İzzeddin Keykavus Şifahanesi, which was a hospital and a medical school, the beautifully decorated Gök Medrese, the twin minarets of the Çifte Minareli Medrese and the Buruciye Medrese all of which reflect the aesthetic of the Seljuk period.

 

Kangal, south of Sivas, is the home of Turkey’s most famous breed of dog – the kangal (“canis Galliensis,” who came to Anatolia with the Galatians In the 3rd century BC). Used as sheep dogs, these trusty golden-haired animals have also proven themselves in police and security work.

 

Divriği, became the capital of the Turkish Mengücek Emirs in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although very much off the beaten track, visitors come to Divriği to see the Ulu Mosque and Medrese of 1229. Seljuk stonework reached its most exuberant expression in the animal and flower carvings on the portals. UNESCO has declared this to be one of the world’s leading cultural heritage sites.

 

 

LET US LOVE, LET US BE LOVED

Yunus Emre – 13th Century

 

“I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He was not there; I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.

 

I searched on the mountain and in the valleys but neither in the heights nor in the depth was I able to find Him. I went to the Caaba in Mecca, but He was not there either.

 

I questioned the scholars and philosophers but He was beyond their understanding.

 

I then looked into my heart and it was there where He dwelled that I saw Him; He was nowhere else to be found.”

 

Mevlana – 13th Century

 

Konya, one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great period cultural centers in Turkey. During that period of cultural, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green-tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya’s most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum housing manuscripts of Mevlana’s works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect. Every year, in the first half of December, a ceremony is held to commemorate Mevlana. The controlled, trance-like turning or sema of the white-robed men creates a fascinating performance for the viewer. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bold and striking Seljuk tiles. Nearby is the ince Minareli Medrese of 1258. It is remarkable for its marvelous baroque Seljuk portal.

 

South of Konya, through a land of unique and little-known spiritual history, are the biblical sites of Hatunsaray (Lystra), Derbe (Kerti Höyük) in Karaman and the region of Binbirkilise (1001 Churches), the cradle of early Christianity,

 

Northwest of Konya near Eskişehir stands the town of Seyitgazi. On a hillside above the town stands the imposing 13th-century complex built in memory of Seyyit Battal Gazi, a 7th-century commander of Arab forces who was killed doing battle with the Byzantines and buried here.

 

Northeast of Seyitgazi is the village of Yunus Emre (Sarıköy), the great 13th century Turkish poet who is buried here. His poetry, with its message of love and humanity, lives today, as relevant as ever. UNESCO declared 1991 as the Year of Tolerance and dedicated it to Yunus Emre.

 

THE MYSTICAL, MAGICAL FAIRYLAND CAPPADOCIA

 

Beware of your hand, tongue and desire.

Whatever you seek, seek within yourself.

A path not guided by science leads only to darkness.

 

Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli – 13th Century

Violent eruptions of the volcanoes Mt. Erciyes and Mt. Hasan long ago covered the plateau surrounding Nevşehir with tuff, a soft stone comprised of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain have eroded this brittle rock and created a spectacular surrealistic landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines, in colors that range from warm reds and golds to cool greens and greys. Locals call these fascinating capped pinnacles “peri bacaları” or “fairy chimneys”. Göreme National Park, in the region of Cappadocia, is one of those rare places in the world where the works of humankind blend unobtrusively into the natural surroundings. During the Byzantine times, chapels and monasteries were hollowed out of the rock, their ochre-toned frescoes reflecting the hues of the surrounding landscape. Even today cave dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge harmoniously into the landscape.

 

North of Göreme National Park in Hacıbektaş is the Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli Complex, today a museum. The famous Sufi dervish leader of the Bektaşi order is buried here. This 14th-century complex includes a mausoleum and a mosque, a guest house, a kitchen, a wishing tree, and an area for ascetics.

 

Hacı Bektaş-ı Veil was the Turkish philosopher who championed the value of women, honored their status in society, and encouraged them to be educated. His system of thought is based on reason, knowledge, love, respect and equality.

 

Southeast of Hacıbektaş lies Kayseri, known as Caesarea in Roman times. The city spreads out at the foot of Mt. Erciyes, an extinct volcano. The 13th-century Hunat Hatun Mosque and Medrese, with the Mahperi Hatun Mausoleum, comprise the Hunat Hatun Complex, the first Seljuk complex in Anatolia. South of the complex stands the beautifully decorated Döner Kümbet, a Seljuk mausoleum of classic simplicity, A major Seljuk city, Kayseri was an important center of learning, with many medreses among the remaining historical buildings. The Çifte (Giyasiye and Şifahiye) Medrese, the first Seljuk school of anatomy is now the Gevher Nesibe Medical History Museum.

 

Kültepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh – Karum, was one of the earliest Hlttite commercial cities. Dating from 2000 BC, Kültepe was also one of the world’s first cities to be open to free trade.

 

EPISODE VI

 

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SAINT PAUL

 

Antalya, founded in 159 BC, has been continuously inhabited since its founding by Attalos II, king of Pergamum, who named the city Attaleia after himself. The Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks successively occupied the city before it came under Ottoman rule, The elegant fluted minaret of the Yivli Minareli Mosque in the center of the city, built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddln Keykubat In the 13th century, has become Antalya’s symbol. Surrounded by beautiful scenery of sharp contrasts, Turkey’s principal holiday resort- is an attractive city with shady palm-lined boulevards and a prize-winning marina. In Antalya’s picturesque old quarter of Kaleiçi, narrow, winding streets and old wooden houses abut the ancient city walls.

 

Just east of Antalya is Perge. Originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 BC, Perge was an important city in ancient Pamphylia. St. Paul visited this city on his first missionary journey. The theater stage has finely carved marble reliefs, and other carvings from around the city are displayed in the stadium.

 

East of Perge is the ancient Aspendos, renowned for its theatre, the best preserved example from antiquity, with seating for 15,000. Still used today, the theater’s galleries, stage decorations and acoustics all testify to the architect’s success. Nearby stand the remains of a basilica, an agora and one of the largest aqueducts in Anatolia.

 

North of Antalya stands Yalvaç (Pisidian Antioch) and, nearby, the ancient Pisidian Antioch. It was here that St. Paul changed world history by opening Christianity to the pagan world. Among ruins in Yalvaç are St. Paul’s Basilica, several aqueducts, the Temple of Augustus, a theater, and well-preserved public baths.

 

SANTA CLAUS’ HERITAGE REDISCOVERED

 

The ancient Lycian Region, west of Antalya, is the land of Anatolia’s noblest souls. To be a noble soul is to be a scholar and a humanist, to love art, and to love tolerance.

 

The noble souls of Anatolia were leaders in preserving the humanist principle and developing it during the 4th century AD. In the following century, their thoughts spread and gained respect throughout the western world.

 

Saint Nicholas, later known as Santa Claus and Father Christmas, was born In the biblical harbour town of Patara (December 6, 240 AD). Young Nicholas grew to be a generous man, and entered the priesthood. When his parents died, leaving him a great deal of money, he gave It away to the needy and poor instead of spending it on himself. He believed that the right way to do a good deed was covertly and anonymously, expecting nothing in fl return. He lived for many years in Demre (Myra), east of Patara. This story is told of jS how he was elevated to the rank of bishop:

 

”      Early one morning he went into church as he did every day and was surprised to see all of the churchmen gathered there. The churchmen ran up to him and shouted, “Hail to our new bishop!” Nicholas could hardly believe his ears. One of them explained, “Our old bishop died a few days ago. We have been arguing ever since about who should be chosen to take his place but we couldn’t agree. Last night as we prayed, we heard a voice which said, “Choose as your new bishop the first man who shall enter this church tomorrow. We have spent all night here and now our prayers have been answered. You were the first to enter our church. Hail to Nicholas, Bishop of Myra!” (285 AD).

 

And so it was done. Nicholas became Bishop of Demre and he remained the generous man he had always been. He performed many miracles during his lifetime: he saved Demre from famine, sailors from shipwreck and innocent people from harm. He always took the time to be especially kind to children and in particular to young girls from poor backgrounds, for whom he often provided dowries so they could marry.

 

This humanistic Bishop died in Demre (342 AD). He was well loved and respected by the people, who had only good things to say about him. Nicholas was so well loved that the citizens built a church In his honor. Veneration of him was brought to Europe by Italian sailors during the Middle Ages. His feast day on the 6th of December Is celebrated and Santa Claus turned into an indispensable element of the Christmas spirit. If you come here to celebrate Christmas, you’ll find a sunny Christmas holiday resort on the sandy coast of ancient Lycia.

 

In the biblical city of Demre, there are many splendid carved rock tombs overlooking the magnificent Roman theatre, From Dalyanağzı (Andriake), you can sail to the Kekova region, Santa Claus’ favourite playground, Kekova is the name for this entire area of picturesque islands, numerous bays and ancient Lycian cities. The colors in a Van Gogh painting— blue skies, orange sunsets—starry nights, peace and tranquility, playful dolphins, mythological mysteries, Santa Claus’ spirit and the sparkling sea: Kekova provides all this and more along with a paradise for sailing and yachting.

 

West out of Kekova is a lovely spot, the friendly Mediterranean town of Kaş. When you feel like exploring further, the choice of coves, bays and beaches is almost endless. The local fishermen are very friendly and are happy to run a water-taxi service to take you to favourite bay along the coast. The area around Kaş has remained completely unspoiled, and is ideal for people who enjoy swimming. Kaş is also perfect for the diver who wants to explore the underwater world.

 

Be sure to visit Kaş’ theatre and Lycian tombs, the largest of which is in the center of town. These will help you to relive the days when this town was called Antiphellos. Wandering the streets, be sure to stop and examine the souvenir shops specializing in Turkish handicrafts.

Mythology records that Apollo was born in Patara. The ruins in the area are, of course, numerous and fascinating. Its 22 kilometers of pure white sand is the longest beach of Europe, making it a natural choice for all types of beach sports.

 

EPISODE VII

 

THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF APOCALYPSE

 

Seven Churches, born of the Jewish communities in prominent towns in Anatolia, are mentioned in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation by St. John the Evangelist. These seven cities played an important role in the expansion of early Christianity westward from the Holy Land.

 

1.     İZMİR – İzmir (Smyrna) “Pearl of the Aegean” is set on a coastline which resembles the delicate tracery of handmade lace. It was in this region, a land of “eternal spring and harmony,” that the foundations of western civilization were laid. Homer was born here. The Church of St. Polycarp, the “anchor” of the Seven Churches, is the oldest church in İzmir.

 

2. BERGAMA – Bergama (Pergamum) was a great center for culture, art, civilization and medicine, and survives as one of Turkey’s finest archaeological sites. The Red Basilica here is the oldest of the city’s remaining churches.

 

3. AKHİSAR – Akhisar (Thyatira), a modern town, is surrounded by vineyards. Lydia of Thyatira, a merchant of rare purple dye, is mentioned in the Book of Acts (16:14) as meeting St. Paul. The remains of the Basilica of Thyatira are in the center of the town.

 

4.     SART – Sart (Sardis) was the rich capital of the kingdom of Lydia, graced by monumental buildings such as the Temple of Artemis, the mint, a gold smelter, rows of shops, a gymnasium, and a grand synagogue, the oldest parts of which date from the 4th century BC. The Temple of Artemis was converted to a church after the rise of Christianity.

 

5. ALAŞEHİR – Alaşehir (Philadelphia), the City of Brotherly Love, in ancient times, symbolizes the humanity and tolerance of the ancient and modern peoples of Anatolia. St. John had only good things to say about its inhabitants. In the Beş Eylül district there are remains of a Byzantine basilica.

 

6.     ESKİHİSAR – This was Laodicea, near the present- day spa resort of Pamukkale. Extensive ruins cover several hillsides. It was to the Laodiceans that St. John the Divine wrote “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

 

7.     EFES – Ancient Ephesus is among the most important and popular tourist destinations in Turkey. Many of the city’s graceful buildings survive. Dedicated to Artemis, the ancient city boasted a gigantic temple to the goddess that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Tradition has it that St. John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus after the Crucifixion, and that she lived in a small stone house

(Meryemana Evi) on what is now Bülbüldağı (Mt. Koressos). Now a popular place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims, the house has received the official sanction of the Vatican. A commemoration service is held annually on August 15th, the Feast of the Virgin. The Third Ecumenical Council was held In the Basilica of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus in 431 AD. In the modern town of Selçuk, adjoining ancient Ephesus, stand the Basilica of St. John, said to have been constructed above the saint’s tomb, and the İsabey Mosque, built in the Seljuk period.

 

MEANDERING THROLGH THE LAND OF FAITH

 

The Menderes River (Ancient Meander) is the largest river in the Denizli and Aydin region. Turning left, then right, left then right, the river snakes its way down to the Aegean Sea. The Meander’s name was applied to this back-and-forth curving, and today any river which fits the pattern is said to be “meandering.” Local people living near the Meander have a more romantic name: the “lover lost his way”.

 

This valley has witnessed the rise and fall of several great historical cities, notably Priene, Milet, Didim, Herakleia, Nysa, Aphrodisias, Hierapolis and Colossai. Priene was one of the world’s first planned cities. Milet was a great commercial harbor and birthplace of several philosophers and sages. One of these was Thales, the famous mathematician, who made precise calculations to predict a solar eclipse. The colossal Temple of Apollo found in Didim was one of antiquity’s most sacred places. The Çamiçi-Bafa Lake (Ancient Latmos Inland Bay) is a peaceful natural reserve popular with birdwatchers, trekkers, nature lovers and photographers. The Iconoclastic priests who came here from Constantinople to live built monasteries, churches and chapels at the foot of the Latmos Mountains and on islands in the lake. The ancient city of Herakleia and its historical and religious buildings were all situated around the Bafa Lake. Nysa was an important education center in the Meander Valley. Aphrodisias, dedicated to the goddess of love, is rich in creamy marble buildings, including a theater and odeon. Other impressive buildings include one of the finest and best-preserved ancient stadiums, the temple of Aphrodite, and the modern museum.

 

A magical and spectacular natural site, unique in the world, Pamukkale (Hierapolis) is a fairyland of dazzling white, calcified castles. Thermal spring waters laden with calcium-rich salts running off the plateau’s edge have created this fantastic formation of stalactites, cataracts and basins. The hot springs have been used since Roman times for their therapeutic powers. Situated on a plateau above the calcium formations are the thermal centers and thermal pools, as well as the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis. St. Philip once lived here, and the remains of a 5th-century octagonal basilica built In his honor still can be seen. Mount Honaz, to the east of the Honaz National Park, is covered with a gorgeous alpine forest, and is one of the most beautiful and highest peaks in the Aegean region. The remains of biblical Colossai, a site of early Christian activity, can be seen on the northern slope.

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