St Paul Church in southern Turkey attracts Christians
MERSİN – Anadolu Agency
St. Paul Church, St. Paul’s Well and surrounding historical quarters in the southern province of Mersin’s Tarsus district are among the most important faith tourism attractions in the city and draw the interest of Christians worldwide.
The historic church, located in St. Paul’s hometown, was taken under protection in 1994 and opened as a monumental museum after restoration work carried out between 1997 and 2001.
The church and the well in the yard of a house, where St. Paul is believed to have lived, was included in the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage on Feb. 25, 2000 as the St. Paul Church, St. Paul’s Well and surrounding historic quarters.
Archaeological excavations around the 30-meter well have unearthed cultural layers of the Roman, Byzantine and the Ottoman eras.
Pope Benedict XVI had declared the date between June 28, 2008 and June 29, 2009 as the Year of St. Paul due to his 2000th birthday. After that, the recognition of St. Paul Church and the well increased.
Being visited by many Christians every year, the church and the well also host religious ceremonies from time to time. The architecture of the church has Orthodox and Catholic influences. In the ceiling of its central nave are the frescoes of four apostles: Yohannes, Mattios, Marcos and Lucas.
Baptism here is important for Christians
Murat Durukan, a professor at Mersin University’s archaeology department, told state-run Anadolu Agency that Tarsus was one of the world’s oldest cities with a history dating back to the 7000’s B.C., and that it was home to very important cultural and archaeological values. Durukan said Tarsus had its heyday in the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
“The letters written by St. Paul to the assemblies of big cities to spread Christianity are very important. The writers of the Bible used these letters as a reference. The Luca Bible mentions the name of Tarsus as the birthplace of St. Paul,” Durukan said.
Stating that the district was known by the whole world of Christianity, Durukan said, “Tarsus has great importance in terms of faith tourism. The existence of St. Paul increases this importance. St. Paul Church and the well are among the most popular tourist attractions. There are some cities in the world that Christians give too much importance. Tarsus and Antalya are two of them. Some Christians go to Jerusalem after going to this district to strengthen their pilgrimage. Christians are being baptized with the water coming out of the St. Paul well. Being baptized here is very valuable to Christians. Tarsus has one of the most protected values of Christianity in Turkey.”