Believed to be the First Church of Christianity, 4th Century. Cave Church of St Peter, Hatay, Turkey
It is believed by some that the founding of the church in Antioch can be traced to the Bible's Acts of the Apostles (11:25-27) where it is related that Barnabas travelled 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. Christian tradition 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 regarded by tradition as on the spot where he first preached the Gospel in Antioch.
Crusaders of the First Crusade who captured Antakya in 1098 lengthened the church by a few metres and connected it with two arches to the facade, which they constructed. This facade was rebuilt in 1863 by the Capuchin Friars who restored the church on the orders of Pope Pius IX. French Emperor Napoleon III also contributed to the restoration. The remains on the left hand side of the church entrance belong to colonnades that formerly stood in front of the church facade.
On top of the stone altar located in the middle of the church is a stonework platform that was placed there in memory of the Saint Peter's Platform Holiday which was celebrated every 21 February in Antakya. The marble statue of Saint Peter on top of the altar was placed there in 1932.
Hatay, Turkey, November 2007……..I entered and was Alone. Staring into a starkness, I felt the void of the Pomp and Circumstances of our modern religious buildings and institutions. Instead, the air felt heavy with a timeless Spirit that hung over the huge empty cave cut into the mountainside of Mount Starius. In the darkness, thin Rays of Light streamed through the Crusader built Facade and danced along the moss covered walls, illuminating the stone alter that stood at the back of the cave. My heart opened, and in that moment the message of Peaceful Co-Existence was chiseled into the mission of the Peace Caravan Project: To Illuminate the Beauty of our Differences, sharing in the Oneness of our Humanity.