Turkey, Ayia Thekla
Ayia Thekla is the ruins of a large church complex built in the Byzantine period. In the past, it was a popular pilgrimage site. And now both locals and tourists come here to see with their own eyes the cave where the first Christian saint named Thekla lived.
Ayia Thekla Church is located 4 km south of Silifke and 85 km from the capital of the province of Mersin. From the state highway D-450, which is laid along the Mediterranean coast, Ayia Thekla is only 1 km away.
Thekla was a student and follower of the Apostle Paul. She was deeply revered in the Byzantine period. She lived in the vicinity of modern Silifke and died here.
The first mentions of Ayia Thekla as a place of worship are given by St. Gregory of Nazia in 374. After 10 years, Egeria visited here – a woman who left a note about her journey to the Holy Land. She mentioned that near the cave where Saint Thekla lived for a long time, numerous cells for men and women were built. They are centered around a church surrounded by a high wall. Soon after Egeria’s visit, Thecla’s sanctuary was transferred to a cave on the southern slope of the hill, now called Meriemlik – in honor of the Virgin Mary. In the cave there was a burial, supposedly belonging to Saint Thecla.
Until 312, Christians secretly gathered in the cave of St. Thecla for joint prayer. In the IV century, the underground hall was transformed into a church with several naves and side cells. Ayia Thekla church was built on a hilltop in 460-470 by the Byzantine emperor Zeno. The temple itself and the buildings that were located nearby, for example, the terms, are now in ruins. From the church survived only part of the apse. You can also inspect the tank for the storage of drinking water, which came here by aqueduct from Silifke.