If you’re a frequent visitor, you’ve probably grown familiar with the cave-like image in our masthead. What you may not know is that the photo in the upper left of your screen is from the Cave Church, or St. Peter’s Grotto in Antioch (now Antakya). It is believed to have been dug out by St. Peter himself and used as a place of worship by the early Christian community in Antioch. This would make it the very first Christian Church ever built.
ANTIOCH: AN EARLY CENTER OF CHRISTIANITY
Antioch, of course, became the primary center of the early church after the Christians were dispersed from Jerusalem by persecution. Connected by the Orentes River to the Mediterranean port of Pieria Seleucia, it quickly became a major center of planning and organization the missionary efforts throughout Asia Minor and beyond. Luke, the Evangelist, was a native of Antioch and Peter, Paul, Barnabus and others used it as both a jumping off place and a safe haven to which they could return between journeys.
The interior of the grotto is austere. Its few permanent items consist of a simple altar, a single statue, and a stone chair or seat. Deposits from years of seepage can be seen on the wall behind the altar. Some of the walls have the barely discernible remnants of ancient frescoes and the floor indicates traces of mosaics. Despite its simplicity, one can’t look at the photo of the interior without being awed by the holiness it exudes.
RESCUED BY THE CRUSADERS
The exterior stone façade of the church was built by Crusaders who identified the grotto during their rule of Antioch from 1098 to 1268. There is a tunnel in the back that leads into the mountain’s interior. It is believed to have been used as a place of hiding during times of persecution.
As we learned in last week’s post, Antioch has experienced many severe earthquakes over the centuries and the Turkish Government now restricts access to the Grotto Church because of seismic instability.
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Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings.
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