The “St. Peter’s Grotto” in Turkey is considered one of the first Christian churches
Chapter 11 of the book Acts of the Apostles says that Antioch – present-day Antahkia in Turkey – was the city where, for the first time, Jesus’ disciples were called “Christians.” Tradition launched Peter as founder of the Church of Antioch, according to the book. The narrative speaks not only of the arrival of Peter and Barnabas in the city, but also of preaching.
This same tradition also ensures that it was in the Knisset Mar Semaan Kefa (Grotto of St. Peter) that Peter celebrated the Eucharist for his community. That is, this small cave may be the first place of veneration of the ancient Church of Antioch.
Located on one of the slopes of Mount Starius, the cave has depth of only 13 meters and height of seven. The oldest parts of the structure we see today, built around the original cave excavated in the mountain, date from the fourth and fifth centuries and include a series of mosaics and frescoes preserved to the right of the altar.
Centuries ago, a series of small aqueducts provided water (considered miraculous) from the sources to the region where the baptized were celebrated. However recent earthquakes have left the channels unusable.
When the Crusades took Antioch in 1098, a new façade was added to the cave, which was rebuilt eight centuries later by Capuchin friars, following the orders of Pope Pius IX.
Nowadays, the cave has become a museum, although some religious ceremonies are held there, with prior authorization. One of them is the feast of the patron saint of Antioch, Saint Peter, celebrated on February 21.
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