Paul's chief works of ministry were first accomplished here, with the assistance of Barnabas and also Mark and Timothy.
Asia Minor contains almost countless ruins of the Christian era, buried, or excavated partly or in whole.
The Church of Hagia Sophia, the main edifice of the Byzantines, still stands intact in Istanbul, formerly called Constantinople. The Islamic ruler of Turkiye, Erdogan, had declared the edifice a Mosque, no longer a Museum, which it was made during the Westernizing, secularist, democracy-leaning rule of Kemal Ataturk, founder of Turkiye.
Built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, it was the largest church of Christendom until St. Peter's in Rome was constructed.
The Ottoman Turkish Sultan, Mehmet in the 15th century, converted it to a mosque, but in the 20th century it was officially re-established as a museum instead, with no more Moslem rites being conducted there though some Moslem Kuffic religious inscriptions on huge shields still hang there (what the inscripions say probably promote the Moslem teachings, that "Allah is One God," and "Mohammed is his prophet").
It is a major tourist sight in the world today, and is still considered the mother church by the Greek Orthodox world. We must wait to see what Erdogan's reclassification of the edifice and his hints of rebuilding or remodeling the complex, entail.
The Greek Orthodox head, the Patriarch of Constantinople, still resides in the city, as a Turkish citizen in order to remain a resident, maintaining a church and office for the patriarchate that goes back over a thousand years to the earliest times of Christian faith in Asia Minor. If he were not a Turkish citizen, he would be regarded and treated as an ememy hostile to Turkish culture and religion, and driven out if not killed if he tried to remain.
Some of the church's ancient Christian frescos have been found when plaster was removed, and the frescos are still very beautiful. The ancient stained glass in the windows has also survived in many windows high up in the building.
Will the dictatorial Erdogan's "reforms' cause them to be re-plastered over or painted over? Much of the building is largely what it was under the Byzantines, though sadly deprived of the glorious aspect it had back then with the innumerable, lavish, golden embellishments. Even so, it remains a stunning sight because of its enormous dome and the huge open space beneath it, along with the dozens of fine marble pillars, many of which were brought there from all parts of Justinian's empire, taken from pagan temples to embelish the church.
A savage war was fought in the early twenties of the last century; the resident Greek population and the Greek armies were all driven out, and the Turkish nation was firmly established in the first years after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the close of World War I. This picture was taken by Ronald Ginther on a USAF base tour in 1968.
This stupendous temple was burned and destroyed several times by various madmen seeking fame for the deed that he figured would immortalize him, which it did, as a vandal and a fool.
Paul saw it on his visits and stays in the city. You could not go to Ephesus and not see it looming over the port and inner city markets.
The temple was dedicated to Diana, a mother goddess of the pagan religion, and in protection of its trade in idols Paul was nearly lynched by a mob (the account is fully given in Acts).
Despite its immensity and notoriety, scarcely a stone of the magnificent temple survives today on the original site.
A nearby mosque (also in ruins) contains pillars, it was said by the guide to Ronald Ginther on tour, of the temple. This pillar may have been one taken from the temple to embelish the mosque, when it was built sometime after the 7th century by conquering Moslems.
Turkish Iznik was a small city (now shrunk to a village at least in the 1960s when I was there), huddling in the ruins of the much larger, wealthy, and cosmopolitan city of Roman and Byzantine-Era Nicaea. It was famed for its blue tile industry in the Turkish Ottoman period, which lasted for centuries from the 15th century on up to the early 20th century.
Nicaea, from earliest times flourished. It was a refuge of the Byzantine Empire where Byzantine rulers found they could be secure until they could find forces strong enough to retake Constantinople their original capital from the Latins, which they accomplished by the superior forces of the Komnenian family dynasty and its restoration of the country.
In the 13th century, however, the Franks (called Latins by the Byzantines) captured it in a crusade led by Venice. It had to be considerably damaged at that time. Ships were brought overland to the lake to attack the city within the walls.
It originally held many monasteries and no doubt palaces and mansions, but very little of them survives. The churches are all in ruins. Earthquakes have done extensive damage in addition. A few fine mosques going back to the time of Columbus are covered with the famous Iznik blue tiles and appear like new today. The Iznik pottery was famous for a long time, but no longer operates. The village has grown to a a small town since 1968 when the picture of the walls was taken. Iznik takes advantage of the lush vineyards of the area, the extensive olive groves, the local archeological museum, the ancient ruins of the city and the great walls, and the tourist traffic attracted to its historic sights and also the pristine blue lake. It well worth a tour due to these many reasons because of the great natural beauty, the charming people, and the great historical and religious meaning for Christians.