Years ago Istanbul was known by other names, but the fact remains that the city played an important role in the spread of Orthodox Christianity. At the time of Christ, the city was called Byzantium, later to be changed to Constantinople after the emperor, and then in contemporary times the name evolved to Istanbul. This is one of the most popular stops on a Christian pilgrimage because it is here that St Paul began much of his evangelizing in earnest.
Choosing between Guided and Self-guided Tours
With the abundance of Istanbul tour books on the market, many pilgrims opt for a self-guided tour of the holy places in Istanbul. However, if you decide that this extremely large and busy city presents too much of a hassle for you, you can check hotels in Istanbul with ihg.com that can direct you to reputable tour guides. One of the major benefits of staying in larger, more reputable hotels is that their concierge services go above and beyond in helping their guests find what they need during their stay.
Let’s Begin with the Apostle Paul
Every believer knows that Paul was born Saul of Tarsus, but it may not be as well-known that Tarsus was located in southern Turkey. It is here that Saul began his life and here that Paul (having changed his name on the road to Damascus) chose to take the Good News. It was in Tarsus that Barnabas gathered Paul up and they began their mission together. From there, the rest as they say, is history. As one of the earliest lands where the Gospel was preached, Turkey in Asia Minor is home to a huge number of holy Christian sites that pilgrims flock to each and every year. In Istanbul there are four main Christian attractions that are a must see.
Most Popular Christian Sites in Istanbul
Actually there are literally hundreds of places that you could go to see where Paul stood or preached or stopped in and around what is modern-day Istanbul but there are four that stand out in particular. These include:
- Hagia Eirene – Listed first because historically this was the first actual church built in Constantinople way back in the 6th Today it is located within the complex known as the Topkapi Palace and as luck would have it, this is one of the very few churches that was not converted to a mosque. It is now a museum open to the public.
- Hagia Sophia Museum – As a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hagia Sophia Museum attracts Christians and non-believers alike due to its amazing beauty and elegance. It has evolved from a church to its present state as a museum, but as a historical site and place of beauty, this is also a must see for any pilgrim.
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul – Oddly, although located in Turkey, is the recognised centre, global headquarters, of Greek Orthodoxy. Those of the Orthodox Christian persuasion must make a stop here to gain a historic perspective as well as for a sign of faith.
- St Savior in Chora – As an exquisite tribute to Christianity, St Savior in Chora is a favoured stop for pilgrims. Here you see the many layers of beauty added throughout the centuries from the 4th to the 14th. One thousand years of tributes to faith in their Saviour – simply amazing!
Bear in mind that these are just the most popular stops on a Christian pilgrimage through Istanbul. There are so many more places of Christian interest so do take the time to explore. Extend your stay if needs be, but don’t miss out on some amazing historical moments.