Manisa home to holy churches of Christianity
MANİSA – DHA
The western province of Manisa is home to three of the seven major churches of Early Christianity. Officials and tourism managers want to improve faith tourism in the city, which has already been drawing many Asian worshipers.
The ruins of these three churches receive tourists particularly from countries like South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. Accompanied by religious men, they visit the ruins.
The first churches of Christianity, Smyrna, Ephesus, Denizli Laodicea, Salihli Sardes, Alaşehir St. Jean and Akhisar Thyateira churches, are known as the seven churches that were sent for revelation. These areas, which are important in terms of faith tourism, also contribute to tourism in the region.
Three of these seven churches, Sardes in the Salihli district, St. Jean Church in the Alaşehir district, and Thyateira in the Akhisar district, are located in Manisa, which had a significant number of Christians living in the ancient times.
Tourism officials and art historians say that the seven churches should not be considered merely as physical structures but the cornerstones of seven different groups or cities in their region.
In the first five months of 2018, Sardes received 10,000 visitors, while Akhisar Thyateira received 6,000 and St. Jean Church received 2,000 visitors.
Tourists mostly come to these three churches in April, May and June, officials say.
These three churches are irreplaceable routes for travel agencies organizing faith tours.
Catholics from Italy, Catholics and Protestants from Singapore, Catholics from the Philippines and Protestants from Taiwan also show interest in the faith tours.
Tourist guides say that each group has its own leader during the tours. Travel agencies bring religious men from abroad in order to increase interest in the tours. Christians visiting the seven churches say that while they are doing a kind of pilgrimage, they are also coming to the places mentioned in their holy book.
St Jean house of turtles, crows
The St. Jean Church in Alaşehir is one of the biggest churches of its era. But today it has three standing columns only. In the past the church had six columns. It is said that the other parts of the church have remained under surrounding ruins.
The owners of the ancient structure are now crows that nest in the ruins of the church.
The Thyateira Church in Akhisar is located on a vast field, and just like how the St. Jean Church hosts crows, the Thyateira Church hosts turtles amid its ruins. Nearly 25 turtles, including baby ones, are fed by Thyateira officials.
Sardes, known once as the capital of the Kydian Kingdom and where the first ever money was printed, was an important center for Christians in the past.
The Sardes Church, located next to the Temple of Artemis in the ancient city of Sardes, draws interest in faith tourism, too.
“One of the churches in western Anatolia, where the Christian community wandered and the seven revelations came, is here. It is estimated that the church was built in 400 A.D. It was built as a small section and was added another section. This structure is visited today by European Christians. There are many visitors from South Korea who have recently met with Christianity. They come from Thailand and Taiwan, too. They come here with priests and make rituals. European Christians have made a ceremony with the permission of the state,” said Mustafa Uçar, the honorary chair of the Salihli Tourism Association.