Students from the SBF in Turkey in the footsteps of St Paul

Students from the SBF in Turkey in the footsteps of St Paul

An excursion to Turkey to learn the history of the faith in that country from the archaeological, historical and cultural points of view. This was the journey undertaken by 26 students from the  Studium Biblicum Franciscanum from 19 June to 2 July, accompanied by fr. Yunus Demirci. These activities are the pride of the Studium, which has always been committed to ensuring that its students have a concrete and complete experience of the Biblical places.

Istanbul and Cappadocia

The first few days were devoted to Istanbul, with the basilica of Santa Sofia, the gem of Byzantine culture, and what is known as the “Blue Mosque”. The intense cultural programme closed with a brief trip by boat on the Bosphorus. The group then visited Cappadocia: the valley of Goreme, with its rock-carved churches, Uchisar, Zelve and the famous “fairy chimneys”, and one of the underground cities used by Christians as a refuge during persecutions. The students also met Mons. Paolo Bizzetti, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia.

In the footsteps of Paul…

On 24 June, the group reached Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul. Here, according to Islamic tradition, there is also the tomb of the prophet Daniel. The tour continued with a visit to a church carved in the rocks, the refuge of St Tecla for many years and where there was once a flourishing monastic community. The students visited Konya (the ancient Iconium), where there is also the mausoleum of the Persian mystic Rumi, and then they continued towards Antioch of Pisidia, where Paul and Barnabas were prosecuted. The group then visited Pammukale (the ancient Hierapolis) with the famous petrified waterfalls and the church where there is the tomb of St Phillip.

… and of Mary

On 28 June, the day started close to Ephesus, with Mass in the place where Mary is believed to have lived with the disciple John. Here the students visited the sanctuary in the care of the Capuchin friars and a basilica dedicated to the apostle, whose mortal remains are there. The ruins of the church of the “Council of Ephesus” of 431 and the schools where the masters taught and where St Paul probably preached are also in ancient Ephesus.

Greek culture

The last few days were an immersion in Greek culture, starting from Miletus. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that St Paul greeted the elders of Ephesus here for the last time, leaving a spiritual testament. The students reached Priene, and then Izmir (the ancient Smirne), Sardis and  Pergamon – the last two amongst the seven Churches mentioned in the Apocalypse. The last stopping places were Assos and the ancient Troy, of which only few traces remain.

Marinella Bandini - Fr. Luca Di Pasquale