Holy Sites in Turkey

Mosaic in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia (Lori Erickson photo)

Turkey has been a crossroads of civilization for millennia. Within its borders lie remains of the first known human settlement as well as ruins and artifacts from a succession of empires that include the Hittites, Lycians, Ionians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans.

This ancient land is also home to many sites sacred to the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. While many Christians do not think of Turkey as a biblical land, during much of the first century it was the center for the young church. Two-thirds of the 27 books in the New Testament were either written in Asia Minor (the term for the Asian portion of Turkey) or were addressed to communities there. The apostles John, Paul, and Peter lived, preached, and prayed here. The Seven Churches of Revelation—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea—are located on Turkey’s Aegean coast. According to tradition, the apostle John brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus in Turkey after the crucifixion, where she lived her last days in a small stone house on Mount Koressos. The long list of holy sites in Turkey includes the incomparable Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Basilica of St. John near Ephesus, and Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.

As one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in the world, Turkey is attracting a growing number of visitors interested in exploring its religious sites. Though the country is 99 percent Muslim, it is a secular state that is proud of its many Christian and Jewish landmarks. The Turkish people are warm, hospitable and eager to show the world their cultural and spiritual treasures.

In the following pages I describe a trip to Istanbul, Ephesus, and Pergamum. I hope you’ll join me on a journey to some of the most fascinating religious sites in the world.

Practical details for traveling in Turkey




Seven Churches of Revelation

Turkish Culture and Tourism website


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