The Church of Saint Peter (St. Peter's Cave Church, Cave-Church of St. Peter) near Antakya (Antioch), Turkey, is composed of a cave carved into the mountainside on Mount Starius with a depth of 13 m, a width of 9.5 m and a height of 7 m. This cave, which has been used by the first Christians in the Antakya region, is one of Christianity's oldest churches.
The founding of the church in Antioch can be traced from the Bible's Acts of the Apostles (11:25-27) where it is related that Barnabas travels to Tarsus to bring Paul the Apostle there. They worked for one year with the nascent Christian community, and there the converts were called Christians for the first time in history. The Christian heritage considers Peter, the first Apostle, as the founder of the church of Antioch, and the first priest of the Christian population that was established there; the Church of St. Peter is the spot where he first preached the Gospel in Antioch.
Only some pieces of ground mosaics, and traces of frescoes on the right side of the altar have been preserved to date from the early period of the church. It is thought that the tunnel inside which opens to the mountain side served the Christians to evacuate the church in case of sudden raids and attacks. Water that seeps from the nearby rocks were gathered inside for drinking purposes, and was also used for baptisms. The collection of water, which visitors drank and collected to give to those who were ill (with the belief that it was healing and curative), has lessened as a result of recent earthquakes.
On top of the stone altar located in the middle of the church, is a stonework platform that was placed in memory of the Saint Peter's Platform Holiday which was celebrated every 21st of February in Antakya. The marble Saint Peter statue on top of the altar was placed there in 1932. Crusaders who captured Antakya in 1098 lengthened the church by a few meters and connected it with two arches to the facade. This facade has been rebuilt in 1863, by the Capuchin Friars who were doing restorative works on the orders of Pope Pius IX. Napoleon III has also contributed to the restoration. The remains on the left hand side of the church entrance belong to colonnades that used to stand in front of the church facade.
It is known that the garden of the church has been used as a cemetery for hundreds of years. Graves and burials have also been located inside the church, especially around the altar.
Although it is a museum today, it is possible to perform ceremonies inside the church under the inspection of the Museum Management, by obtaining a permission from the Office of the Provincial Governor.
- Cave Church of St. Pierre
- Church of Antioch
- Antiochian Patriarchate
- All About Turkey: Hatay
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Saint Peter, Prince of Apostles
- Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Church of St Peter. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
It is the oldest Christian church in the world.