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Hatay – 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 declares that the followers of Jesus were first called ‘Christians’ here. Saints Peter, Paul and Barnabas all preached here. Visit the cavechurch 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 worldfamous museum of Roman mosaics. Nearby Çevlik (Seleucia Peria) is mentioned in the New Testament as the port from which Sts.Paul and Barnabos set sail for their first missionary journey to Antalya and Perge.
East of Mersin, on the edge of the fertile Çukurova Plain is Tarsus, the birthplace of St.Paul. 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.