Described as the second Holy Land, Turkey has a rich Biblical and religious heritage that gives its historical sites an almost spine tingling sense of wonder. While you’re not likely to see the Cherubim and the rotating swords of fire blocking your entrance into Eden, (yes, the Garden of Eden was located in Turkey!) what you will see will surely leave deep and lasting impressions.
Take Ephesus for example. This ancient metropolis offers a profound experience as you walk the very same marble streets that St Paul walked 2,000 years ago. You can stand in the middle of the Great Theatre where Paul gave one of his powerful discourses about worshipping the one creator God who made the heavens and the earth and turning away from vain idols.
You will almost hear the rabid hostility of the silver smith Demetrius and his associates, who
made their fortune making idols of Artemis, as they shouted at the top of their voices, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’
Incidentally, you can walk around the ruins of the Temple of Artemis today which will give you a sense of the reverence in which she was held by the inhabitants of Ephesus.
Turkey offers that unique sense of stepping back into the ancient past like few places can, and some places emit such an historic resonance that the sensation is sent into over-drive.
Haran, for example, takes you right back into the days of Abraham. It was here where the patriarch stayed with his family on their way to the Promised Land and accumulated much of his wealth. You can sense in the atmosphere the busy hubbub of city traffic and trade that took place here all those many centuries ago, and you can practically see in your mind’s eye Abraham looking upon the processions of people worshiping the moon god Sin who was venerated here.
3. The 7 Churches of Revelation
No mention of religious tours in Turkey could possibly be complete without mentioning the Seven Churches or Congregations of Revelation, including the Acropolis of Pergamum and Hierapolis near modern day Pamukkale.
Scattered throughout Turkey, or ancient Asia Minor, they can be visited over a period of 3 or 4 days and are well worth including in your itinerary.
Described as a “lost forest of cones and pillars of rock” by a British explorer who visited way back in the 1840s, Cappadocia is definitely not to be missed in any itinerary of religious
destinations in Turkey. Christianity was brought here very early on. It seems that inhabitants brought it back from Jerusalem where they had embraced it right out of the mouth of St Paul. No wonder Christians in Cappadocia were addressed by St Peter in his very first letter.
Today this intriguing landscape offers an unforgettable experience with its volcanic rock towers, pillars and caves. Beneath the unearthly landscape of Cappadocia lie the fascinating subterranean cities built by early Christians in efforts to escape persecution. Staggeringly, the largest of these underground cities lays ten levels deep and is estimated to have been able to hold up to 20,000 people.
For those interested in religious history, Turkey holds an endless supply of fascination. A visit will leave you with deep impressions and memories that can only serve to broaden your appreciation for the rich heritage that lies in this historic and ancient land.