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World’s first cave Church in Hatay, Turkiye still intact after major quakes

February 20, 2023 at 1:59 pm

A view of the world’s first cave Church” St. Pierre survived in Hatay province after the powerful twin earthquakes in Hatay, Turkiye on February 20, 2023. [Abdullah Doğan – Anadolu Agency]

Although many historically sacred places were reduced to rubble in powerful earthquakes that struck southern Turkiye early this month, miraculously, the world’s first cave Church in Hatay remains largely intact, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Carved into the side of Mount Staurin in the Antakya region of the Apostle Peter’s early ministry, around 38-39 AD, the Saint Pierre Cave Church is recognised as the world’s very first cathedral, according to UNESCO.

Only the recently built retaining wall of the historical church was slightly demolished. The cave Church and its surroundings played a significant role in the early days of Christianity and the spread of this belief.

The Church spans some 9.5 meters wide, 13 meters long, and seven meters high (31 feet by 42 ft. by 23 ft.) and, in 2011, was added to UNESCO’s Tentative World Heritage List.

In 1963, Pope Paul VI declared the ave Church a pilgrimage site. Saint Peter (or Pierre), the head of the first Christian community, is also considered the first Pope.

In the powerful 6 February, which struck Hatay hard, Anatolia’s first Mosque, the Habib-I Neccar Mosque, and the Antioch (Antakya) Orthodox Church, which dates to the first century AD, almost completely collapsed.

Antakya is home to various minority groups such as Syriac Orthodox Christians, Syriac Catholics and Armenians.

The 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude quakes struck 10 other provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa. More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the tremors that struck in less than 10 hours.

Over 41,000 people were killed by the twin earthquakes in Turkiye, according to the latest official figures. Over 100,000 more were injured.

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