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  • hbanziger

B + 14 : Saint Peter's Church in Antioch

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

This morning we left the Carpe Diem V behind in the new yacht port of Iskenderun (former Alexandria ad Issue) to drive in one of the omnipresent white vans to Antioch where we would meet the sailors for our last leg: Iskenderun - Cyprus - Jaffa. We also wanted to give the crew a day of rest since they were on duty for uninterrupted 14 days. But little did we know .... At 10.43 am our van broke down.

To our pleasant surprise, we had a replacement van 45 minutes later and could continue

We crossed the Nur Mountains on the 740 m high Belen Gecidi Pass and could finally see into the large fertile plain of Antioch which is still part of Turkey

The plain and the surrounding hills are an agricultural paradise. Well irrigated there are miles upon miles of olive and fig orchards and wheat and barley fields and lots of cotton. The drive took us exactly one hour (without the involuntary stop!)

Of all the towns we visited the last two weeks, Antioch is probably the youngest. It was founded in 300 BC by Seleucus I, one of Alexander's Generals. Seleucus got Persia proper, Mesopotamia and Syria. Antioch had probably 250'000 inhabitants, mighty walls of 4.5 km of length and was the Capital of the Seleucid Empire. It became a Roman town in 65 BC out of free will together with the Province of Syria. Today, it feels very Turkish though

3D reconstruction of ancient Antioch, one of the four great metropolis of the Roman Empire

The old Turkish town centre of Antioch is now slowly upgraded and attracts a young crowd

For the night I had booked this classic Turkish Inn for everybody - we would not return to the Carpe Diem V tonight

During the building of a new hotel inside the old town, the builders found dozens of very well preserved Roman mosaics - have not seen as many in my life - a true must for any visitor

Strolling through the old town we also found the official seat of the Antioch Patriarch, one of the four Patriarchs during Roman times - as head of church they resided in Antioch, Alexandria (Egypt), Constantinople and Rome (the future Pope was one of the Patriarchs). The church was decorated with one of these fabulous banners with St Peter and St Paul. It was in Antioch where the Gospel of Jesus was written down between 65 and 110 AD. Antioch was safer than Palestine where a vicious war was fought between Jews and Rome.

We then met our local tour guide who took us up to the first church in Christianity where St Peter and St Paul taught. We gathered that this was probably an abandoned rock grave like we had seen so many which the Christians were allowed to take over.

There are many such abandoned and empty graves just nearby.

Dinner with both sailing groups was in one of the new upscale restaurants in the old town. The food was delightful.

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