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Christianity More and more people are discovering the important role Turkey played in the history of Christianity. Travelers can visit many magnificent churches, some nearly as old as Christianity itself, and can retrace the footsteps of Saints Peter and Paul from the Biblical city of Antioch to the underground churches of Cappadocia. Many of the most important events in Christian history occurred in Turkey. Born in Tarsus, the Apostle Paul spread the word of Jesus Christ across Anatolia. On Turkey’s Eastern Mediterranean coast is Antakya, known in biblical times as Antioch. This ancient city was home to the first important Christian community, founded in 42 AD by St. Paul. Jesus’ followers were first called “Christians” in Antioch and from here Christianity spread to the world. St. Paul departed from Antioch on his three missionary journeys. The city holds the Church of St. Peter, a cave-church where the apostles Peter and Paul are believed to have preached. In 1963, the Vatican designated the site a place of pilgrimage and recognized it as the world’s first cathedral. The Seven Churches of Revelation, a series of communities located near the Aegean coast, is where St. Paul preached and built the early church. Their ancient names – Ephesus (Efes), Smyrna (Izmir), Thyatira (Akhisar), Sardis (Sart), Philadelphia (Alasehir), Laodicea (Eskihisar) and Pergamon (Bergama) are familiar from the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. Ephesus, perhaps the most prominent of the Seven Churches, is where St. Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians, and where St. John the Evangelist brought Virgin Mary to spend her last years. The Vatican recognizes the Virgin Mary’s house, located in the hills near Ephesus, as a shrine. Just outside Ephesus, in Selcuk, is the Basilica of St. John where he preached and is believed to be buried. St. Nicholas was born and lived in Demre (Myra) on the Mediterranean coast. A church dedicated to the original Santa Claus still stands. Visitors to the biblical area of Cappadocia can explore more than 200 carved rock churches beautifully decorated with frescoes, and a seven-story underground city where Christians took refuge from their persecutors. The stunning Monastery of the Virgin Mary located near the Black Sea in Trabzon is a dating to the 4th century. Built on the edge of a l200 foot cliff and accessible only by foot, it housed some of the Orthodox Church’s greatest thinkers. Istanbul became the center of Christianity in 330 AD and it was here that the largest church in Christendom at the time, Haghia Sophia or the Church of the Divine Wisdom, was dedicated by Emperor Justinian in 536 AD. The Kariye (Chora) Museum, a Greek Orthodox Church from, is famous for its incomparable Byzantine frescoes and mosaics.