In the old quarter of Antakya there are churches representing three different denominations, all with buildings in excellent condition and all seemingly proud to be part of Antakya’s religious diversity.
First of all we came across the Syrian Catholics.
Their modern church, down a narrow alley, had prominent signs to aid the visitor. Inside resembled an evangelical meeting room with not a candle in sight and no lingering smell of incense.
When we visited the cleaner was having problems with her hoover and totally ignored us.
There was no-one else around to explain when the church had opened and how large is the congregation.
So all we have are photos of the inside:
The next church was a very imposing building was ‘closed for lunch’.
Apparently the Protestants are the newcomers to the Antakya religious scene, the church was built in the late 19th century and funded by American Baptists.
We had to poke the camera through a heavy duty iron fence to take the photo – and didn’t go back.
We still had the oldest Christians in Antakya to investigate – the Syrian Orthodox.
The helpful caretaker who showed us round told us that the original church on this site was a wooden building first erected in the very early centuries after Christ died.
That building burned down in the mid-nineteenth century and the current stone construction replaced it and was consecrated in 1860. It is a beautiful building with some wonderful icons on display – candle lighting is positively encouraged.
And rarest of all for Turkey it has a bell tower.
Whether or not the bell is actually rung will be revealed on Sunday, when your intrepid correspondents return to experience an Eastern Orthodox service.