Western Turkey was the cradle of the early Christian church. This area was central to Paul’s mission and also an area to which he devoted a great deal of time and energy. His ministry in the region was so productive that one could say that “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). It was also an area of service to the uncompromising prophet John, who wrote his Revelation to open the eyes of Christians living in seven cities in an Asian province to the challenges of the faithful living in Roman imperialism. When Ignatius, bishop of the church at Antioch near Orontes, was on his way to execution in Rome, he was visited by delegations of Christian communities in Ephesus, Thrace, Magnesia, Smyrna, and Philadelphia. The letters he wrote to encourage these choirs open windows into their enduring lives and challenges. Many of the churches that were founded at the time continued to thrive in the severe persecutions of the Roman imperial period and saw the victory of Christianity when Constantine the emperor embraced the faith and the world changed forever. Join me on this journey as we visit these places and follow the history of the oldest church from Paul to the Council of Nicaea. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
The Seven Revelation Churches are ancient churches about which Sts. John wrote in the Bible. Each church received a letter urging them to repent of their sins and correct their present path. When letters were sent to churches, Christian communities were active in every city. Today, although some remnants of these ancient cities and their churches have remained, others have merged with the modern Turkish cities that adorn the landscape today. According to legend, all 7 churches were on a dilapidated trade route, each church received a specific message to pass on to the choir. The first church was at Ephesus, the first stop along the trade route, followed by Smyrna, now Izmir, then the great city of Pergamon, then Thyatira, rich Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally Laodicea, near present-day Denizli. The messages were distributed in order so that they could circulate throughout the then Christian community. The letters were intended to eradicate the disease of churches in every city and are still an interesting place and pilgrimage for Christian communities. The proximity of churches makes them easy to see during weekend trips, but why not take the time to explore the region more fully? The Aegean Sea awaits you to discover many treasures!
DAY 1 ARRIVE TO İZMİR-KUŞADASI
Landing in Izmir. Transfer to the hotel in Kusadasi. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
DAY 2 EPHESUS-KUŞADASI
After breakfast we go to visit Ephesus, the first of seven churches. We will see the amazing ruins of this great city: a theater, a library, Hadrian’s Temple and the newly excavated houses of the Roman terrace. You will also visit the cave church of Paul and Tekla, which is closed to the public. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
The first church is in Ephesus, where St. lived. Ivan
Since Ephesus was an important Roman city, it is assumed that the church choir here was quite strong and Christianity eventually became the main city religion. Today, visitors can enjoy a tour of Roman city cities and key places of Christian history. Mary's house and the tomb of St. Ivana are key places of interest, it is believed that she lived here in her days before she was buried in Mary's Church
DAY 3 MAGNESIA- TRALLES-NYSA-KUŞADASI
Visit Magnesia and Tralles, two early cities where Christianity flourished in the first century. Ignatius wrote letters to the churches in these cities on the way to martyrdom. Then visit the new Aydin Archaeological Museum. Continue on to the ancient city of Nysa with its beautiful library, theater and odeon. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
DAY 4 PRIENE-MILET-APHRODISIAS-PAMUKKALE
We will drive south to visit the Greco-Roman site of Priene. We then visit Milet, the site of the theater, where Paul talked to Ephesian elders. We then drive to Aphrodite, excavated by New York University. We will visit the Agora, the theater, the stadium and Hadrian's Bath. Then visit the Aphrodite Museum. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
DAY 5 COLOSSAE-LAODICEA-HIERAPOLIS-PAMUKKALE
After breakfast we drive to the unexcavated Colosseum (Paul's letter to the Colossians) at the foot of Mount Honaz. We will then continue to Laodicea, one of the seven churches of Revelation. Finally, we will visit Hierapolis, where we will see the monuments, the spa and the theater with a well-preserved stage and Philip’s tomb. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
Laodicea - Denizli
Laodicea was a key place in the area in ancient times. Laodicea, important for trade and as an important Christian area, lies a few hours north of modern Denizli. The city was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes to eventually abandon it. Excavation and restoration projects are now being carefully carried out, revealing the history and significance of the city. The reconstructed basilicas contain intricate mosaics and are sure to impress visitors, but they are definitely worth the time to explore.
DAY 6 PHILADELPHIA-SARDIS-IZMIR
After breakfast, we head to Philadelphia, now called Alasehir. We will see the remains of a Byzantine basilica, as well as some frescoes from the eleventh century. Philadelphia and Smyrna were the only churches among the seven about which John said nothing bad. From there we travel to Sardis, one of the most picturesque areas of any of the seven churches. We will see the remains of the Temple of Artemis, as well as a small Byzantine church. After this drive to Izmir (ancient Smyrna), one of the seven churches and one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. dinner and overnight in Izmir
Philadelphia - Alaşehir
Philadelphia was a prosperous city under Roman rule. Modern Alasehir (the city of God) is the title of the Roman Catholic Church. Artifacts from Alasehir’s colorful past can be found all over the city. Church of St. John and the Church of St. Jean is the key remaining Christian city in the city.
Sardis - Sart
Sardis was one of the richest Roman cities in the area. Sardis, home to a significant Jewish population, was a bustling city important to the growth of the Church in the area. The once thriving commercial center today houses the remains of the Temple of Artemis, a Jewish synagogue, a Byzantine church, and evidence of everyday Roman life. Sardis is a small town, but definitely worth the time to explore.
DAY 7 THYATRIA-PERGAM-ASSOS
Drive to Akhisar and see the remains of the church in Tiatira. Drive to Bergama, the city of ancient Pergamum, one of the seven churches of Revelation. There we will visit the Acropolis and see the impressive theater, the Temple of Athena and the ruins of Asklepion, an ancient healing center. We continue driving to Assos. Dinner and overnight in Assos
Smyrna - Izmir
Miro was in ancient times a very rich and powerful city that actually competed with Ephesus and Pergamon for influence in the region. Today, Smyrna is located in modern-day Izmir, a city that has been inhabited almost continuously for centuries. The old city of Smyrna was largely absorbed into the city and as such is the entire remnant of ancient life. The most important historical building is the Agora, one of the best preserved buildings of ancient Ionia. Christianity in Smyrna is believed to have evolved from a large Jewish population that once lived in the area, as people fled from Judaism and were baptized in the Christian faith.
Thyateira - Akhisar
The fourth church, ancient Thyatira, is today located within Akhisar. Once a city known for its bronze work and weaving, it is today one of Turkey’s largest tobacco and olive oil growing regions. The ancient church presented in Revelation can be found in the modern Akhisar’s Ulu Cami (Great Mosque). The building is a former Byzantine church that was rebuilt after the Ottoman conquest of the region. Thyatira Church was told to persevere in its beliefs, despite the lack of a strong church in the city. Today, there are few suggestions that Christianity once thrived in the region. Pergamon Pergamon is one of the most interesting and most visited ancient places in Turkey. Survivors date back to the archaic period, and among the preserved buildings are a theater, temples in Athens and Dionysus, and a gymnasium. Pergamon was a big city, important both politically and commercially, citizens would enjoy a full, horrible life. Christianity in Pergamon was at odds with the city’s strong beliefs and history of worshiping pagan gods. This conflict between Christians and Gentiles is something the letter in the Church referred to, praising those who held fast to their Christian faith and admonishing those who persisted in worshiping pagan gods.
DAY 8 ALEXANDER TROAS-TROJA-BURSA
We visit the panoramic temple of Athens in Assos and the temple of Apollo Smintheon at Gulpinar. We continue to Odun Iskelesi to visit the place and port of Alexandria-Troy, where Paul raised the boy Eutychus. Paul visited the area at least twice. Then visit the legendary city of Troy and see a replica of a wooden horse. Dinner and overnight in Bursa.
DAY 9 NICAEA-İSTANBUL
Drive to Iznik (ancient Nicaea). Two ecumenical councils took place here: the first ecumenical council in 325 and the seventh ecumenical council in 787. Visit the ruins of the church of St. Sofia, where the Seventh Ecumenical Council was held. After this drive to Istanbul, the only city in the world that stretches across two continents; Upon arrival, visit the Hippodrome Square, the Church of Hagia Sophia, the Church of St. Irene, underground tank. transfer to the hotel for dinner and overnight
DAY 10 ISTANBUL
Transfer to the airport, flight from Istanbul