One of the beauties of travel is the insight gained on so many levels. Visiting Turkey opened our eyes in so many ways. We loved our stay in beautiful Istanbul. The city on two continents. Booking luxury accommodation in Istanbul is simple and plentiful. We spent quality time there, but our favorite part of our Turkish experience was our visit to the Seven Churches of Revelation. You certainly do not need to be a scripture historian or be an extremely religious person to enjoy following the path of these important cities. Although so much more can be gained by looking to these with a secular and a sectarian view.
Far and away the most widely known and visited location of all of the Seven Churches. Located on the outskirts of modern day Selcuk, Turkey. The location’s vicinity to both international airports and cruise boat moorings make this one the popular stops for those taking in the western Mediterranean. Ephesus used to be located on the harbor, but now silt and natural sediment has made the area landlocked.
Ephesus today is a collection of finely preserved ruins including a coliseum, extensive and finely preserved living quarters, a communal commode and of course the most recognizable feature, the Library. Our advice is to visit Ephesus during the shoulder tourist season May or Sept. This place can become cram packed with sightseers, especially those right off of a cruise. Get there as early in the morning as possible, to avoid the throngs of people, and the light is so much better for your pictures. Start at the top of the hill and work your way down. The entire city is the shape of a giant L.
The two highlights for us were reading the story of Paul whilst sitting in the very coliseum that he plead to the idol worshiping throng. Acoustics in the stadium are perfect. Seats and stage are really well preserved. The view from every seat was perfect, and sound really carries. It is so easy to envision what it would have been like to listen to Paul, and the intimidating scene facing the thousands that were gathered there.
The other highlight was definitely visiting the Celsius Library. The façade has been restored and statues seen in the niches between the doors, are copies of the originals which were taken to Vienna during the years when the library was being excavated. As the inscriptions on the bases indicate, the statues symbolized the WISDOM (SOPHIA), KNOWLEDGE (EPISTEME), INTELLIGENCE (ENNOIA) and VIRTUE (ARETE) of Celsus.
Take Away-The biggest take-away are twofold. First, the value of learning. The center of this remarkable town was the Library. A location to share knowledge and acquire the same. Maybe there were some couple fights there? The other thing that we took away was the courage of Paul. He stood for his beliefs in the face of stiff opposition.
We spent a half day in Ephesus with our tour guide and then came the next day to get some more pictures. If you are there as a couple wait for the cruisys (our nickname for people who take cruises) to go by then continue to marvel while they are onto the next ruin.
2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the church that would suffer persecution.
Can’t finding Synrna on a map? It’s because there is not much there. Today, the bustling port city of Izmir was built over the historical location of the city. We really didn’t get a chance to see any ruins at this location. We stayed our first night in Izmir when we flew in. The Hilton in Izmir has a commanding view of the ocean and city. We highly recommend.
Of note in marking Smyna, one of its most famous citiziens, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.
We learn of Polycarp: Writing to Polycarp’s flock, Ignatius another bishop in Asia at the time, had called him a “godly bishop.” (Smyrnaeans 12:2.) In his letters Ignatius shared spiritual and practical advice, encouraging him to pray, be diligent, and individualize his attention for each member: “Not all wounds are healed by the same plaster.” (Polycarp 2:1.) Moreover, Polycarp was not to allow those who “teach strange doctrine [to] overthrow you; stand firm as a hammered anvil.” (Polycarp 3:1.) Polycarp’s life fits the metaphor. Martyred in the middle of the second century, he had borne testimony of youthful contact “with John and with the others who had seen the Lord,” thus sharing his personal knowledge of the apostles’ preaching and witnessing “about their miracles.”Learn more
Take Away- In the secular realm: Development happens. The progress for the sake of progress. What was once a great city, with wise and progressive citizenry…now is a completely new great city with wise and progressive citizenry. Spiritually, we take strength in the Bishop’s dedication and courage to face opposition and hold fast to our faith.
3. Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the church that needed to repent.
Truth in advertising…we didn’t get to visit Pergamum. It was simply too far, and our time was too limited. But our tour guide says it’s a must visit.
Things were hear with visiting in Pergamum: the Temple of Trajan
Some impressive remains of this 2nd c. A.D. marble temple dedicated to the emperor have been restored. It sits next to the library which housed 200,000 volumes and was the second largest in the ancient world after Alexandria. Parchment was invented in Pergamum after relations with Egypt soured and papyrus became difficult to obtain.
Noteable cisizens include: Galen of Pergamon a prominent sceientist and physician.
Galen was also a highly skilled surgeon, and he performed surgical operations on human patients. Many of the procedures and techniques that he utilized would not be used again for centuries. Of particular note are procedures that Galen performed on patients’ brains and eyes. In order to correct cataracts in patients, Galen performed an operation that was similar to what is performed by contemporary ophthalmologists. Using a needle-shaped instrument, Galen attempted to remove the cataract from behind the lens of the eye. -Wikipedia
Take away-We need to make another trip to Turkey! Take away number two…we hate needles…just thought you should know.
4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the church that had a false prophetess.
Ok…this is the other church that we didn’t get too. Again, sorry. A few interesting facts and a little history about Thyatira.
The city was known as “Pelopia” but it was named Thyateira by king Seleucus I Nicator in 290 BC because being at war with Lysimachus and hearing that he had a daughter born, called this city “thuateira”, from Greek “θυγατήρ”, “θυγατέρα” (thugater, thugatera), meaning “daughter”. In classical times, Thyatira stood on the border between Lydia and Mysia. It was famous for its dyeing and was a center of the indigo trade. Among the ancient ruins of the city, inscriptions have been found relating to the guild of dyers in the city. Indeed, more guilds are known in Thyatira than any other contemporary city in the Roman province of Asia (inscriptions mention the following: wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers and bronze-smiths)-Wikipedia
In 1922 the Patriarch of Constantinople appointed an Exarch for Western and Central Europe with the title Archbishop of Thyateira. The current Archbishop of Thyateira since 1988 is Gregorios Theocharous. The Archbishop of Thyateira resides in London and has pastoral responsibility for the Greek Orthodox Church in all of the United Kingdom. Cool huh?
Take away—Again, we need to visit Turkey again to see this location. So another take away might be…we need to hear from you if you have been. Tell us about it.
5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the church that had fallen asleep.
Fallen asleep? How can that be?! The center of any visit to Sardis will revolve around the awe inspiring Gymnasium. The Greeks and Romans strongly believed in the development of both the body and mind. They would devote equal time to the development of both. The folks from Sardis must have taken this a bit more one sided…with the construction of a two story temple to building the body! It is no wonder that they became great warriors.
Since 1958, Harvard University has sponsored annual archeological expeditions to Sardis. These excavations unearthed perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western Diaspora yet discovered from antiquity, yielding over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions as well as numerous mosaic floors. These floors are simply amazing. During our visit, we pretty much had the entire place to our self. This is one of those sites that doesn’t make it on the mainstream tour agenda. It is a must see.
Take away-our first tongue in cheek take away, is don’t leave your camera on a stone while climbing around on the rocks. (It can cause a fight and it did for us). Ok serious again…the great gymnasium reminds us of the importance of developing both a strong body and a strong mind. Sardis was by far our favorite “church.” It’s literally in the middle of a field. It’s a stunning site and we were the only people there. Access to ruins in Turkey is far less guarded than in Europe. We climbed on columns and jumped off rocks.
6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently.
Prior to our trip, we invested a lot of time learning more about Islam. As practicing Christians, living in the rural western US, we have had limited exposure to the Islamic faith. Turkey is an incredible mix of religions. We took a tour in Istanbul that began at a Muslim Mosque, went through the Jewish Quarter, and ended at the mighty seminary of the Orthodox Christian Church. Our tour was led by a guide that was Protestant who was married to a Muslim! How is that for a melting pot? Nowhere in our travels with the contrast in beliefs as great as in Philadelphia. All that remands of the huge church that once was located here are huge arches and a very interesting cemetery. The entire church complex is surrounded by mosques. While we were visiting, there was a call to prayer. The entire area was ringing with the chant. Here we were, at the onetime capital of Christianity in the religion and the strength and dominance of another religious perspective.
Warning: Getting this can take some time. This is the furthest afield of all the 7 locations.
Take Aways- You don’t have to agree to get along. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
7. Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the church with the lukewarm faith.
One of our favorite sites out of all the churches was Laodicea. The ancient city…now just a collection of stones is across the valley from the white cliffs of the hot springs of pamukkale. Anciently the city received some of its water supply piped across the valley from these springs. By the time the water arrived, it has lost some of it’s steam. It was now lukewarm. John in Revelations plays on this analogy, comparing the lukewarm faith of the believers in the city to the water that was made available for their use. You can see the hot springs from the ruins of site. Be aware that pamukkale doensn’t look like the brochures. It’s amazing to see but if you are expecting cascading water rushing over the hill, it’s just not there. Most of the thermal water has been piped away for local hotels.
Take Away- Don’t be mediocre! Be someone great. Live your life to the fullest. Take pride in your work. Focus on what is important and do big and great things.
Take a visit to the Seven Churches. So much is to be gain and “taken away.”
Our favorite quote from the Book of Revalations:
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.