The Seven Churches of Revelation
Travel Journal of NH and BJ, 2002
24th – Oct 26th: Tour of the Seven Churches of
in the morning we took a taxi to the airport, costing us 25 million TRL
(approximately RM58) for the flight to Izmir. By 930 am we reached Izmir,
the third largest city of Turkey that was formerly known as Smyrna (!)
the Seven Churches tour, we engaged a local tour agent – BEF Tourism. I
obtained the information re the tour agent from the internet and checked
with the Department of Tourism of Turkey to ensure that the tour agent is
a ‘reliable’ one. The people from Department of Tourism was really
efficient in answering enquires like this – they replied my email
promptly informing the registration number of the agency! After some
negotiations through email, for USD 250 per person they would take us
through the 7 churches in 3 days, and the fare includes all meals and 2
nights stay. We also asked them to purchase the Istanbul – Izmir return
air tickets for us. If we purchased the tickets from Malaysia, it will
cost USD 290 per person, however, I learned from the website of Turkish
Airline that if we purchased the ticket in Turkey, it costs only USD 150!
Our tour agent was helpful in purchasing the tickets for us and delivered
the tickets to our hotel in Istanbul – at no extra charge!
we came out from the airport, a middle age man, named Iekhsan, came to
greet us and took us to the tour van. There were 7 others (2 American
ladies and 5 Koreans) who joined us for the tour to Ephesus today.
road from Izmir Airport to Ephesus is a modern highway with road sign in
both Turkish and English, it is easy to drive in this part of the country!
Along the highway are farms of tobacco, olive, cotton, vineyard
etc. It was a hot day with bright sunshine, and we were sweating for the
first time in Turkey! We reached Selcuk (the modern town of Ephesus) in
about 1 hr time and the first destination was the Mary’s House on top of
a small hill. This is a famous pilgrim site for the Catholics and
Orthodox. It was just a restored stone house converted to a Catholic
church, nothing much to see. But the scenery was beautiful and there were
lots of tourists. After that we passed through the small town of Selcuk.
There are lots of motels and souvenir shops; most signs are in English
too! This is a town that lives on tourism, and you would probably
encounter more foreigners than Turks!
we reached ancient Ephesus, just a few kilometers from the town of Selcuk.
We came in through the Magnesia Gate, the eastern entrance of ancient
Ephesus (‘Efes’ in Turkish), and straight to the Upper Agora and the
Odeon. The ancient ruins of Ephesus were full of tourists today –
people, old and young, wandering everywhere. This site is like an open-air
museum, a piece of history that you are allowed to touch freely! Virtually
none of these 2000 years old structures was behind barriers or had signs
saying, “don’t touch”!
The Prytanean (town hall) of Ephesus. A status of Artemis was excavated from here.
Our guide Iekhsan was very knowledgeable and spoke fluent English too. He pointed up to us the ancient water pipe system, the Prytaneum where the statue of Artemis was discovered, led us through Curetes (‘Priest’) Street, explained to us the differences between Corinthian, Ionian and Doris columns (I have forgotten by now!).
Our guide said these water pipes
dated back to the time of ancient
Ephesus in Paul's time.
The majestic Curetes Street of ancient Ephesus
Iekhsan also showed us the Gates of Hercules, Trajan’s Fountain and brought us to see the ancient Latrines! We found a shady place to escape from the scorching sun for a moment, little did we know that those marble slabs we sat on were more than 2000 years old, and was part of the public brothels then!!
This is the ancient latrines!
The Fountain of Trojan in Ephesus
the brothels is the majestic Library of Celsius, a huge 3-storey building
that had been partially restored. The Austrian who excavated the site
earlier, however, had taken most of the artifacts away, and they are now
in the Ephesus Museum in Vienna. The sculptures we saw in the restored
library are actually replicates donated by the Vienna Ephesus Museum
Next to the Library was the Lower Agora, with a very impressive gate of entrance. This was the famous market place of ancient Ephesus. Once there were hundreds of shops here; as ancient Ephesus was an important seaport. Today, only broken walls remain.
The majestic Celsius Library, next to it is
the entrance gate to the Agora
The grand Ephesus Amphitheatre, still in excellent shape
|Inside the Amphitheatre|
it is, of course, the famous Ephesus Amphitheatre that is still a
functional theatre today. That was where, as recorded in Acts 19, the
Ephesians gathered to shout ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’ for 2
hours! Paul’s ministry here was so powerful that the silversmiths making
silver shrines of Artemis were losing business like anything, and in
desperation, they incited the riot. In the spiritual realm, this gathering
was also a satanic attempt to intimidate the Church into backing off as
well as a spiritual warfare! The Amphitheatre was full of tourists
everywhere, but we did have some time to pray quietly here, and we thanked
the Lord for the Celebration Ephesus event held here three years ago. In
Oct 1st, 1999, 4000 Christians from every part of the world
gathered here for a four-hour celebration of the Lord Jesus. I believe
that was a powerful spiritual warfare against the Spirit of Artemis that
continues to entrench itself here in this land.
O God, let the prayers uttered during the Celebration Ephesus come
to pass! *
we walked along the Harbor Road, our guide Iekhsan drew our attention to
the famous advertising sign for the city brothel.
The advertising sign for the city brothel: the foot pointing to the direction of the brothel house. Can you see the picture of a woman at the right of the foot, and upper left from the foot a drawing of the heart (love?)?
But he also pointed up to us the very interesting signs of double crosses in a circle carved on the marble floor. Iekhsan explained to us that this sign represents the Greek word ‘fish’, or I X q YS (ICHTHYS), and in Greek, this is the acronym of the ancient Christian creed: Jesus Christ the Son of God the Savior (Ihsos Christos Teos Yios Sotra).
The Harbor Way. Paul and John must have walked through this road to the city
The sign of the 'double cross in a cycle'. This is what you get when you superimpose the letters of
I X q YS.
do not know why the Ephesians carved the sign on the marble floor (quite a
number of them), as a way to ‘secretly’ communicate with other
Christians (for it is known that early Christians used ‘fish’ as a
secret symbol of Christianity as they communicate with one another)? Or
was it a bold way to proclaim their faith?
Harbor Way is still well preserved but the buildings there were no more. I
could imagine how Paul, and later on John, landed here and walked along
the Harbor way, and walked through this great city that was full of
majestic pagan temples and places of worship, a city that honored all
kinds of gods in addition to the Artemis, and had the boldness, the
audacity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ is the
Son of God and Savior of Man,” that “there is no other name under
heaven given to men by which we must be saved”!
After spending an hour plus touring the ancient Ephesus, we went for a Turkey buffet lunch. This is quite typical lunch provided for group tourists, the food is a bit like our mixed rice in Malaysia but the settings look a lot better. After this we went to visit the ruins of the Artemis Temple, about 2 km from ancient Ephesus. This temple, once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, has only 1 column standing today (and the column is also a restored one) and only some broken pieces of stones. But it was apparently a very big building. Somehow I always think that the Artemis Temple was built on top of a hill, but it actually was built on the marshy lowland right next to the new Selcuk town center. There is nothing much to see here.
The ruins of the Artemis Temple in Ephesus. On the hill is the ruins of the Church of St John
After that we proceeded to a small hill overlooking the Artemis temple site. On this hill are the ruins of the Church of St John. This was built in 560 AD, the same time the Emperor Justinin built Aya Sofia in Constantinople. It was a very grand building – we note that John was highly revered in this whole region, but we seldom come across ruin of church of St Paul! I wonder why? In this part of Turkey, almost everywhere you can see churches dedicated to John! From the partly restored structures we can imagine how majestic the building must be in its days. St John was supposed to be buried here (his tomb was supposed to be here). We also visited the restored, unique baptismal pool – shaped like a keyhole. There was a cemetery surrounding the baptismal pool too. According to our guide Iekhsan, they buried the ‘important’ people near the pool.
The ruins of the 6th century Church of St John in Ephesus
The restored baptismal pool
|The Tomb of St John|
From the lookout area of the small hill one can clearly see the Artemis temple site, the two small hills surrounding the ancient Ephesus, and the marshland that was once the harbor of Ephesus.
|A view of the ruins of Artemis (the valley below) and the two small hills surrounding ancient Ephesus. From the Church of St John lookout.|
the way to St John church BJ spotted a shop house with a signboard ‘Efes
Protestant church’, we were very excited – now here is a living
church, not just ruins! And so on the way down the hill I requested
Iekhsan to stop there for a minute so that at least I could take a
picture. The bus driver stopped at the right place (and then I notice that
the church was just opposite the ancient site of the Artemis Temple). I
rushed down to take a few pictures and then back to the van.
May the Lord bless the Efes Protestant church
Somebody have attempted to deface the signboard.
then we were rather tired of seeing ruins of churches and churches
converted to mosques. It was so encouraging and comforting to see a living
church right here in Ephesus! How meaningful the Scriptures would become
to them when they read Acts 19, the Epistle to Ephesians and John’s
letter to the Church of Ephesus. Even for us, we found that after the
visit to Ephesus, these portions of the Scriptures become so vivid to us!
the corner is the famous, small Ephesus museum of Selcuk. We were told
that most of the ‘treasures’ unearthed from Ephesus are in the Ephesus
Museum in Vienna. Nevertheless, there were quite some interesting
collections, of particular interest is the statue of Artemis discovered
from the Town Hall of ancient Ephesus. Also I took a special interest in
the huge marble head and the one arm that are remains of the sculpture of
Emperor Domitian, unearthed from the site of the ancient Domitian Temple
at the harbor of Ephesus. This was the Roman Emperor that exiled John to
the island of Patmos! He looks proud and fierce indeed! He was the one who
decreed that every Christian must proclaim ‘Caesar is Lord’ or faced
severe punishment or execution!
was also a special exhibit of gladiators, some interesting recent findings
from archeological excavations from the Ephesus Amphitheatre. The exhibits
include human bones and weapons used by the gladiators. Apparently, the
Theatre was also used for that purpose at that time and some of the
gladiators might be those Christians who refused to proclaim ‘Caesar is
The sculpture of the Domitian Emperor
Greek sculpture in the museum
the time we finished the visit it was only 4 pm, still early, so our guide
Iekhsan proposed that we visited a Turkish carpet-making center. We all
had no objection – we have plenty of time, anyway. So he brought us
there. The boss, a white hair man, spoke very good English and was a good
salesman. First he showed us the process of making carpet, it was really
labor intensive! The girls have to spend months or years to make a good
quality carpet. Just imagine these girls, sitting in front of the
carpet-weaving machine doing the same, monotonous job of weaving the
carpet hours after hours for years, just to make a good carpet! He also
gave us a lesson on the quality of carpet, we learned much indeed! Now we
know why certain carpets cost only USD 100, while another one may cost USD
10000. For those of them
assigned to make high quality carpets, they may be able to make only 5-6
carpets in their whole working life. The boss than brought us to his
exhibition room, got us all to order our drink (Turkish hospitality) and
than began to show us his vast collections of expensive carpets. His
assistant was a strongly built man, and he would carry a huge, heavy
carpet and threw out on the ground before us, and then he would pick up
another one and did the same, until there were 15-20 beautiful carpets
laying on the ground before 9 of us! The boss was particularly proud of a
prayer mat, with pictures of ‘trees of life’, ‘open heavenly
gates’ and birds of heaven (this is Islam concept of heaven)! The cost
was also heavenly -- USD
90000! He joked that if you pray on this prayer mat, you can go right to
the heaven! It was expensive because it took 6 years to make. Apparently
the cost of the carpet depends on how many knots per square cm, the more
knot, the more time consuming to make, and hence, the more costly! The
boss was very persuasive, and with the free drinks it makes us difficult
not to buy something. On the other hand, none of us are oil sheiks from
Middle East, and so, to his disappointment, nobody bought anything.
we finished the visit it was 5 pm and so it was time to go back to Izmir.
We stayed in Hotel Anemon – Anemon means Tulips of Manisa, it is again
related to some Greek legends. The hotel was ok but the room was a bit
stuffy, apparently the air con was not functioning well. Unfortunately,
the staff here spoke very poor English and we had not been able to lodge a
proper complain! At night we felt sort of oppressive in the room. Perhaps
that was the way the Lord wanted to make us aware of the spiritual
oppressiveness of the House of Mary that we visited earlier....
next morning we woke up early and prayed for the Efes Protestant Church,
and for God to restore the glory of his church in Turkey, the land that
was the cradle of the early Church. As we read the letter to the Church of
Smyrna, we prayed also for Izmir (Smyrna). Today’s Smyrna, or Izmir, is
the third largest city of Turkey. It is a busy metropolitan but with few
Christians. Apparently there is only a remnant of Greek Orthodox and
Catholics in the city. This is what my guide book tells me: Before the
First World War Smyrna was known as a Christian city, the majority of the
residents here were Greeks and Armenians. After the First World War, the
Ottoman Empire collapsed and British and France encouraged the Greece
Government to seize the Greek-populated southern Turkey so as to form the
Greater Greece. Unfortunately, the Greek Expeditionary Force in southern
Turkey was defeated by the Turkish nationalist force and Attaturk’s
victorious Turkish army finally entered Smyrna as the Greek army flee. The
Greek residents here were severely persecuted and at the end upon mutual
agreement between Turkey and Greece government, nearly 1.5 million Greeks
in Turkey were dispatched ‘back’ to Greece, in exchange for 600000
Turks in Greece. With the departure of the Greek population (and also the
earlier massacre of Armenians), Christians -- mostly Orthodox and
Catholics – also ‘disappeared’ from this land. Smyrna was
subsequently renamed Izmir by the Turks, and today there are only pockets
of Christians remain here. Later on as we walked along the road of Izmir,
we prayed for God to revive his church here.
The Old City of Smyrna
9 am the BEF Tour guide came, he was a young man, Mr. Selcuk, who also
spoke excellent English. The driver was still the same guy and the same
two American ladies joined us. We learned that the 5 Koreans had already
returned to Istanbul, they only came to join the Ephesus Tour. We went
straight to Pergamum, some 1 hr plus drive away to the north. The drive
was scenic and on the way we saw fields after fields of cotton and olives.
The coastal drive was particularly beautiful, with the deep blue sea in
view – the sea was so blue! By 1045 or so we reached the acropolis of
Pergamum. The acropolis was on top of a hill with steep slopes as its
natural defense. It rises 1300 feet above the valley below. No wonder this
had became the capital city of the Pergamum Kingdom! From the hill we can
see the beautiful modern Bergama town nearby.
Hellenistic and Romans city walls
The Temple of Trajan at the hilltop
took us first to the very top of the acropolis (in Greek this means the
upper city), to visit the Corinthian Temple of Trajan. What remains here
are still very impressive and majestic. They ancient people really spent
money to build their place of worship! However, most of the
‘treasures’ (artifacts) excavated here were in the Pergamum Museum in
Berlin – something that local tour guides like Selcuk are very angry
about. He told us that the Pergamum ruins were ‘discovered’ by German
engineers employed by the Ottoman sultan to construct railway. The
engineers were looking for stones as building materials and the locals
told them that there were lot of stones up there in the acropolis. When
the German climbed up there they must be dumfounded -- they knew that they
had struck ‘gold’ here! Taking advantage of the ignorance of the
Ottoman sultan (who didn’t mind stones being carried out the nation,
after all, he reasoned, there were so many stones in the Empire!) the
German engineer Karl Humann managed to bring many precious archeological
artifacts from Pergamum to Berlin, including the huge, three-story Altar
of Zeus. That was really big time robbery! However, whatever left here are
still very impressive.
the edge of the Temple of Trajan we could see the famous Pergamum
Amphitheatre. What a sight! Dating from Hellenistic times, it was cut into
the steep hillside and was capable of seating 10000. Selcuk knew the place
well and he led us from the hilltop to the theatre through an ancient
tunnel – like a secret passage, and it was indeed quite an experience to
walk through that 2500 years old tunnel, and suddenly we found ourselves
in the midst of the ancient seats of the theatre.
The Pergamum Amphitheatre
The 'secret tunnel' leading to the Amphitheatre from the hilltop
here you can have a majestic view of the plains below. And you can let
your imagination runs free, to 2500 years ago, with the theatre full of
spectators watching the performance with the beautiful valley as backdrop.
According to our guide, there was a road from the stage area of the
theatre leading to the market square, and people would come here after
marketing to relax. The road in front of the stage also leads to the ruins
of the Temple of Dionysos, the god of wine. Historians say that during the
particular festival, the worshippers of Dionysos would eat raw meat, and
drink wine until they were drunk, and ran amok in the mountains doing all
kinds of obscene and sexual immoral acts. Perhaps this was what John
refers to in the letter to the Church of Pergamum: ‘you have people
there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the
Israelites to sin by eating food scarified to idols and by committing
The Amphitheatre --still very much intact
The ruins of once the world's largest library -- Pergamum Library
From the library a few more steps brought us to the base of the famous Altar of Zeus – and this is probably the ‘Throne of Satan’ referred to in Revelation 2. When the German Engineer Karl Humann rediscovered ancient Pergamum in 1871, the huge, solid Altar of Zeus was still in very good shape, and so it was carted off to Germany, now on exhibit in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.
The remains (the base) of the Altar of Zeus
A model of the 3-story Altar of Zeus in Pergamum Museum, Berlin
Hall and the Asclepion
that we left the acropolis, went through Bergamon town to view the Red
Hall – it was once an Egyptian Temple, the Serapeum. It was a temple
dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld but was converted
to a church in the 6th century.
Later on, however, it was converted to a mosque. In fact, a wing of
the structure is still being used as a mosque today. This is a familiar
story of the church buildings in Turkey. As for the ruins, there is really
nothing much to see but tourists are usually brought here after visiting
then proceeded to the other side of the Bergama town to visit the
Asclepion, the famous Greco-Roman medical center. The center was
originally constructed in the 4th century BC and in Jesus’
time was a very famous medical center. This site is just a few km from the
acropolis and from here you can have a clear view of the majestic ruins of
|You can see the acropolis of Pergamum from the Asclepion. Notice the amphitheatre on the steep slope.|
The Asclepion was dedicated to Asclepios, the ‘god of healing’, whose cult animals were snakes! The Asclepion was a huge healing complex as well as a cult worship center. The entrance way is the colonnaded Via Sacra (Sacred way) and a few blocks of marble slabs were the remains of the Reception. Apparently, patients who wanted to be admitted had to be examined at the reception. According to our guide, the receptionist would turn away critically ill patients because they did not want patients to die in the medical center! Within the healing complex there were mud bath, exercise facilities, theatre, fountains, library and, of course, temples. There is an 80-meter long underground passage that leads to a two-story circular building, the Temple of Telesphoros, which was the main healing facility here. Selcuk led us walked through the dim tunnel and because there were only 5 of us in the whole tunnel, and the tunnel was so quiet, you really have an eerie feeling! Our imagination went back 2000 years ago, when the patients walked through the same dark tunnel, the only sound they could hear was the distant running of water, and the voices of the doctors above, from the small holes in the ceiling, whispering words of healing and hope!
The Asclepion Medical Complex
This is the entrance of the tunnel to the healing chamber
Inside the tunnel: only five of us!
Inside the healing chamber --the Temple of Telesphorus
|The row of white stones|
the end of the tunnel we came to the round circular Temple of Telesphoros.
The lower portion of the building was amazingly well preserved. This big
building served as a place for patients to sleep while awaiting dream
diagnosis. Recent excavations found some human bones buried beneath the
building – archeologists argued that these were probably bodies of
patients who died here. The doctors buried the dead bodies here secretly
so that the reputation of the healing complex would not be affected!
the courtyard we saw rows of excavated white standing stones – these
were contributions from the patients – the patients inscribed their
names and the ailment from which they were healed on these white standing
stones to honor their false god. Were these the stones John referred to as
a ‘white stone with a new name written on it’? (Revelation 2.17)
lunch we headed east to Thyatira, it was a 1 hr 30 min drive. The modern
name for Thyatira is Akhisar. Thyatira is a city of 5000 years history.
This was where money was first used in the world because it was
strategically located on the intersection of important trade roads. Today
it is famous for tobacco and olives production. Only limited excavations
could be done here because most parts of the ancient Thyatira are
populated today. The archeological site, located in the heart of the city,
is very small, and only the ruins of the temple of Apollo, a Byzantine
church and a colonnaded road had been excavated. There were very few
tourists here – if you are not a Christian, there is no reason to come
to visit Akhisar at all! Selcuk tried to explain to us the importance of
the Thyatira church in the early churches and he could quote Revelation
very well – the Turkish tour guides in this area perhaps know the first
3 chapters of Revelation better than many Christians!
Once there were some Greek Orthodox here, but they were all gone after the Turkey Independence War in 1919-1922. I was interested to find out if there is still any church in this town. During my internet surfing, I came across the very friendly webmaster of the Akhisar Web Site, Mr. Mehmet, To my question, he replied: “I am not aware of any Christian people today living in Akhisar. There is no active church here either”. How sad. We spent some time praying and then left for Izmir, which was some 80 km away.
The ruins in Thyatira
Modern Akhisar (Thyatira)
Night drive from Izmir to Pamukkale
told us he had to send the two American ladies back to their hotel in
Izmir, which is why we have to return to Izmir. Otherwise we could proceed
from Thyatira to Pamukkale straightway. The drive back to Izmir was boring
and took 1 hr 30 min. It was late afternoon when we got back to Izmir. We
requested that Selcuk arranged for us to visit the St Polycarp church
here. St Polycarp was the disciple of John the beloved disciple and was
the Bishop of Smyrna, the famous early father of the church and martyr.
According to historical record, when St Polycarp was arrested and was
ordered by the proconsul: ”Swear by the genius of Caesar, and I
discharge you; blaspheme Christ”, he replied “I have served him these
fourscore and six years, and he never did me any harm, but much good, and
how can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
As the proconsul threatened to burn him to ashes, he boldly
replied: “You threaten me with a fire which burns for a short time and
then goes out, but are yourself ignorant of the judgment to come, and of
the fire of everlasting torments which is prepared for the wicked. Why do
you delay, bring against me what you please.”
|Inside the majestic Church of St. Polycarp in Smyrna|
around 6 pm Selcuk came with a small car, he was going to take us (just
two of us!) to visit Laodecia, Sardis and Philadelphia! He was our driver,
and personal guide for our 3rd day of the tour. From Izmir to
Pamukkale (our base to visit Laodecia and Hierapolis) was a 3-hour drive.
A long drive indeed! Finally at night we reached a town not far away from
Pamukkale, Selcuk then turned into a country road – he said it was a
short cut. It was all darkness at the first 10 min or so as the car rushed
through narrow country lanes without streetlight, we were wondering where
is this guy going to take us to! Then we passed through some small
villages, many villagers – only men – were out in the open square
relaxing and chatting! Finally we reached the tourist hotel – Richmond
Hotel around 9 pm, just in time for our buffet dinner.
Pamukkale and Hierapolis
Hotel is a tourist class hotel, the type of modern hotels cater for group
tourists. Early at 8 am Selcuk came to pick us and brought us to the ruins
of Hieropolis. This was one of the three ancient towns of the Lycus river
valley: Hierapolis, Colosse and Laodecia. In Paul’s epistle to
Colossians, he mentioned the Christian fellowships in Hierapolis and
is on the edge of a cliff above the river valley below, where the modern
town of Pamukkale is now located. Pamukkale is very famous for the white
travertine terraces. From
springs in the cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain,
calcite-laden waters have created at Pamukkale ("cotton palace"
in Turkish) an unreal landscape, made up of petrified waterfalls and a
series of terraced basins.
The white travertine terraces
Another view of the snow-like travertine terraces
The main avenue of ancient Hierapolis
The massive triple arch of Hierapolis: Domitian Gate
ruins of ancient Hierapolis are well preserved. We entered through the
relatively intact, massive Domitian Triple Arch (84 AD) into the
colonnaded street. This city was dedicated to Emperor Domitian, and it was
said that whoever entered through this gate acknowledged that Domitian is
lord. Outside the city, on the hill there was the Martyrion of St Philip,
built in honor of the apostle (or the Deacon?) martyred here in 80 AD.
Traditions say that St Philip chose to stay outside the city gate because
he refused to acknowledge the lordship of Caesar Domitian. To him, only
Jesus is Lord!
Above: On the hill is the ruins of the
Martyrion of St Philip
Right: Cost you RM 23 (USD 6) to swim
in this 2000 year old thermal pool
|We also visited the Pamukkale Thermal Baths. Hot mineral water still bubbling from the bottom of the pool and you could go in for a swim, in the midst of the ancient, sunken Roman and Hellenistic marble columns and capitals (authentic columns dated back to more than 2000 years ago) but it is very expensive to go in! The ticket costs 10 million TRL per person, that is RM 23 or so!|
Laodecia – neither hot nor cold
The site of ancient Laodecia was about 13 km from Pamukkale, to get to the site we had to drive through a narrow, dirt road. There was no settlement nearby. The visible ruins dated from Roman era. Laodecia was the church that was rebuked by the Lord as ‘neither cold or hot... because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth’, this metaphor was almost certainly derived from John’s acquaintance with the springs at Pamukkale and water supply to Laodecia. Standing on the small hill of Laodecia one could visibly see the white travertine terrace of Pamukkale. The spring water of Pamukkale is very hot and is drinkable even though it contains high calcium bicarbonate content. The ‘cold’ water probably referred to that cold water of Colosse – famous for the cool water from the melting snow. Water supply to Laodecia came from hot spring (also rich in mineral) upstream but were lukewarm by the time it reached Laodecia, and the calcium bicarbonate became partially soluble only, and because of that the water was not drinkable, it became an emetic --you would spew it out! Perhaps there was why Jesus says – Lukewarm people make me sick! Today we could see excavated water pipes in Laodecia clogged by the deposits of limestone.
|Laodecia: What a desolate scene!|
Surveying the ruins of Laodecia city
Water pipes clogged by limestone
city was totally destroyed by earthquake in the 5th century.
Archeological excavations are still going on at Laodecia and Selcuk
brought us to see a partially restored ruin site. It was rather impressive
but we were the only two tourists there! By now Selcuk know we do not need
his ‘exposition’ on the Seven Churches of Revelation, and so he left
us alone – that’s why we could spend quite some time praying.
Throughout the half an hour we spent there, there were only Selcuk, two of
us and the watchman there. Lonely place indeed!
we had enough of viewing the desolate ruins of Laodecia, we left for
Philadelphia. The name of the modern town that built on the site of
ancient Philadelphia is Alasehir. It is about 130 km from Izmir(Smyrna)
and 1.5 hr drive from Laodecia. The town is perched between high mountains
and a vine-covered valley and is a pleasant, quite town, famous for wine
production. The town is in a strategic position; the gateway to many
cities and so was an important military outpost in ancient time. Perhaps
this was why John wrote to the Church of Philadelphia: ‘I have placed
before you an open door that no one can shut.’
The huge squat brick stumps in the ruins
Modern Philadelphia: Alasehir. The ruin site is just behind the modern Hotel Benan
of the past glory of Philadelphia was still buried deep underground, there
have been no attempt to excavate because the area is so heavily populated
at the moment.
|Having lunch in the open air|
soon reached Sardis, the ancient capital of the Lydia Empire. It is 70 km
from Izmir. Because of the frequent earthquakes, most of the ruins are
still under the ground; only the ruins of the Roman era have been
unearthed. It was probably inhabited as far back as 1200 BC and was a
wealthy and influential city. The first gold coin in the western world was
issued here around 500 BC. The city was totally destroyed in 1401 and
never recovered after that.
main archeological sites include the Marble Way – a Roman shopping
street (the Roman Road), and the nearby Roman Bath and Gymnasium complex
and ancient Jewish Synagogue.
The Old Roman Road (Marble Way) in Sardis
Marble block with carved cross in one of the shops
|A left-turn led us into the restored Jewish
synagogue, a very impressive building – but is open air now because the
original roof had long gone! The mosaics are also so beautiful; we can see
that the Jews then must be very proud of their synagogue. This is one of
the biggest ancient synagogues ever excavated. Almost right next door to
the synagogue is the restored 3rd century Roman gymnasium and
bath complex; it really looks grand!
The restored Jewish Synagogue, Sardis
The restored Roman Gymnasium and Bath Complex
A close-up look: Jewish Synagogue
Can you imagine the glory of the complex 2000 years ago?
gymnasium was a center of Roman civic society and it came with hot water
bath. Today, the huge hot water bath (like a big swimming pool) is still
there, behind the gymnasium but is full of grass now! It is a puzzle why
the Jews built their synagogue right next to the gymnasium – the kinds
of activities carried up in the gymnasium in the Roman times were against
Judaism teaching, and an observant Jews could not possibly take part in
those activities (exercise and training etc in nakedness). All we can be
sure is that the Jews must be well accepted in the high society in this
city then, for they were allowed to build such a huge synagogue right next
to the center of the civic life of the city.
Above: The Acropolis of Sardis, viewed from ruins of the Artemis Temple, Sardis
Right: The massive columns in the ruins of the Artemis Temple. Note the reddish brick ruins of the Byzantine church behind the first column
After this we went to visit another important ruins in the area – the Sardis Artemis Temple. According to Selcuk our guide, this was built in honor of the Greek Artemis – and she is different from the Artemis of Ephesus. The Greek Artemis was the goddess of hunter! Some locals told Selcuk that hunters still come here to ask for success in their hunting! This is really a very amazing temple, the few huge columns still standing are so massive that one wonder how the ancient Greek managed to build them! A surprising finding is the presence of the ruins of a small, brick Byzantine church (probably 5-6th century) right next to one of the massive columns. The church building was in good shape and now equipped with a new wooden door, but it was locked! Otherwise we would like to go in to take a look. A natural question: why should the Christians build a church right next to the site of the pagan temple? Still a puzzle, but our guide Selcuk had his own explanation, he said that symbolized that the old power (Artemis) is gone, and the new power is the church!
we spent some time praying, a thought came to us: in term of physical
structure, the church is nothing compare with the massive columns of the
Artemis temple, however, in the spiritual realm, it is the Church that
reigns! The world may look strong and mighty yet in spiritual reality the
Christians are the one that have real authority! May we exercise this
authority to bring glory to His name!
our visit in Sardis’ Artemis temple, we were, again, the only visitors.
Selcuk had got used to us meditating and praying at the ruins and so he
waited for us patiently.
|Selcuk told the trader: "I want this teddy bear... but give me a good price!"|
Historical Notes on
the Seven Churches and the Cities
(taken from ‘St
John of Patmos and the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse’ by Otto FA
Meinardus, Caratzas Brothers Publishers, New York, 1979)
The Church in
few hundred years after the church in Ephesus was found, it remained an
important church in Asia. In approximately the year 105, St Ignatius of
Antioch, on his way to Rome, visited Ephesus and later on he wrote to the
Ephesians “you all live according to truth and no heresy dwells among
you..” In 431, the Third Ecumenical Council convened in Ephesus. From
the middle of the 5th century onwards, Ephesus ranked as the
second metropolis of the patriarchate of Constantinople. In the 6th
century, Emperor Justinian built a majestic church over the tomb of St
John – the Church of St John.
both 7th and 8th centuries, the Arabs twice briefly
occupied Ephesus. In 1090 the city was captured and pillaged by the Selcuk
Turks, the city was repeatedly raided by the Turks in the 12th
century. A 12th century traveler described Ephesus as a city in
ruins and the Church of St John in dilapidated state. There are no records
about church life in Ephesus at the end of the 14th century.
Thomas Smith (1671) referred to the city as being ‘reduced to an
inconsiderable number of cottages, wholly inhabited by Turks’. A late 17th
century writer reported that the village of Kirkindje near Ephesus was,
however, still entirely Christian. The village existed as a Christian
village with the lineal descendants of the Ephesians Christians until
1922, when the Christians left as part of the population exchange between
Greece and Turkey.
The Church in Smyrna
the year 105, St Ignatius wrote about the church of Smyrna and commended
them for their ‘immovable faith as if nailed to the cross of the Lord
Jesus Christ’. St Polycarp, the disciple of St John served the church
from 115 to 155 and was martyred at 80 years old. Throughout the
centuries, the Christian community grew in strength and numbers and Smyrna
became one of the more important archbishoprics in Asia Minor. The city
was repeatedly attacked by Turks and captured a few times. In 1402,
Tamerlane captured the city and massacred the Christians. In 17th
century, it was reported that there were two Greek churches and one
Catholic Church in Smyrna. In 1688, there was a severe earthquake in
Smyrna that killed many; in 1770 the Turks killed more than 10000 Greeks
in Smyrna in retaliate to their revolt. Throughout these difficult
centuries, the Christian community in Smyrna remained ‘to be faithful
unto death’ and fearlessly continued in its witness. There was a long
list of martyrs from this church throughout the centuries. In 1739, there
were 7000-8000 Greeks with three churches and 2000 Armenians with one
church in Smyrna. By 1906, Smyrna was a predominantly Christian city with
135000 Greeks, 11175 Catholics, 8500 Armenians, 92000 Muslims and 25500
the First World War, Greece laid claim to the Smyrna area, and British and
France encouraged Greeks to occupy Smyrna and the Ionian hinterland. The
Greek Expeditionary Force clashed with Turkish national army led by
Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal), and were routed.
The Turkish army entered Smyrna on September 9, 1922 and soon
thereafter the city went up in flames, more than 5000 Christians were
killed. No indigenous Greek Christians remained in Smyrna after the 1922
Greco-Turks population exchange.
The Church in Pergamum
continued in Pergamum in the 2nd century. From 5th century on
the church of Pergamum sided with the Alexandrians in their anti-Roman and
anti-Byzantine policies. Later on, Pergamum became a center of the extreme
form of Monophysitism. During the 8th century, the city was
besieged by Moslem force under Maslamah and fell. The city never recovered
from the devastation wrought by the troops of Maslamah. In the 13th
century, it experienced a brief renaissance but in 1330, Pergamum was
described by traveler as a ruined city. Early in 14th century
Pergamum fell under Turkish rule, churches were converted to mosques, and
the population was massacred by Tamerlane in 1402.
In the 17th century, the only active church in Pergamum,
dedicated to St Theodore, served only some 12-15 families. But in 1826 it
was reported that there were 1500 Greeks in the city. Before the First
World War, the Christians maintained 4 churches in Pergamum. The Greeks
left after 1922.
The Church in Thyatira
to the bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, the church of Thyatira had embraced
the Montanist heresy by the middle of the 3rd century. In the
15th century, Thyatira fell to the Ottomans and renamed Akhisar.
In 1675, it was reported that there were no more than 10 Christians in the
town. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Greeks and
Armenians moved to settle in the town again and there were a few hundred
Orthodox Christian families there. Churches were built and before the
First World War there were 11000 Turks, 12000 Greeks and 800 Armenians. On
August 28, 1922, the Greek mayor of Akhisar advised all the Greeks to
leave as the Turkish army was advancing. Many refused to go. A few days
later, Akhisar was occupied by the Turkish troops, and 7000 Greek
Christians were killed. There has been no Christian community in Akhisar
The Church in Sardis
ranked sixth in the hierarchy of the Orthodox dioceses. However, the
Christian community in Sardis declined rapidly after the city was occupied
by the Turks in the 14th century. In early 15th
century, Tamerlane occupied Sardis, and massacred – as he had in
Ephesus, Pergamum and Philadelphia – the population. Sardis was
abandoned but the nearby village of Sart struggled on. In 1671, a visitor
reported Sart as ‘a pitiful village’ and the few Christians who lived
there had neither a church nor a priest. The local church had been
converted to a mosque.
The Church in Philadelphia
the 3rd century, Philadelphia, like Thyatira, was a stronghold
of the Montanist heresy. At the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, the
church of Philadelphia was represented. Philadelphia remained a major
center of Byzantine feudal power until the end of 14th century,
when it was finally captured by the Ottomans. It was a remarkable feat for
Philadelphia to have retained its independence from the surrounding Turks
for so long, and it follows that the apostolic church here was the
strongest of the Seven Churches. Following the devastation by Tamerlane in
early 15th century, many Christians fled. In 1671, a traveler
reported that the Church of St John had been converted into mosque, only
four churches survived. The church in Philadelphia continued to have
martyrs. In 1826, the city had 3000 Turks and 300 Greek families. There
were then still 25 churches remaining. One estimate claimed that in the 19th
century there were 1000-2000 Christians in Philadelphia. There has been no
Christian living in Alashehir (new name for Philadelphia) since 1922.
The Church in Laodicea
The church of Laodecia suffered as much as the other churches of Asia Minor from the persecutions of the 2nd to 4th century. It was represented at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431. Laodecia continued to be prosperous well into the 5th century, but was shattered by a devastating earthquake in the year 494. In 1094, the city was severely damaged when captured by the Selcuk. Between 1092 and 1110 the city was repeatedly sacked by the Turks, and the Christian population began to leave the city in view of the massacre in 1161. By the 15th century, Laodecia had degenerated to become a small village. By 17th century, only wolves, jackals and foxes inhabited the site.
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