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Nave in the Cave

An ancient church may be caving in …

ANTIOCH, Turkey, MARCH 12, 2008 ( – The Cave Church of St. Peter, considered the first Christian church in Antioch, has been closed due to structural concerns.

Capuchin Father Egidio Picucci, noted historian of Turkey and the Early Church, confirmed Sunday to L’Osservatore Romano that Turkish authorities closed the church March 1 due to risks that the structure could cave in.

Also known as St. Peter’s Grotto, the church is a natural cave on the western face of Mount Stauris, which towers over Antioch.

After the collapse of large sections, said Father Picucci, “the possibility that further collapses could constitute a serious danger for the security of visitors led the museum directors — for the Turkish government St. Peter’s Grotto is only a museum — to take these measures.”

It is widely believed that St. Peter himself dug the cave as a place for the first community of Christians in Antioch to gather.

Father Picucci explained that St. Peter’s Grotto, although it is “full of ancient Christian symbols […] is a place dear to all inhabitants of Antioch, including Muslims.”

“On the feast of St. Peter,” he said, “everyone comes to get blessed bread and to drink water,” which is considered “miraculous,” and is brought home by residents and to the sick.

The stone church, he added, is “particularly dear to the Catholic and Orthodox communities,” who always celebrate Christmas and Easter together in the grotto.

4 thoughts on “Nave in the Cave

  1. This is terrible news. Even if the cave was not fashioned by St. Peter himself, it is a very ancient place of Christian worship. I had hoped to see it one day. (What a beautiful practice; Catholic and Orthodox worshipping together on Christmas and Easter!)

  2. That’s very sad. There are so few churches in Turkey already and it’s quite difficult to build new one, much less repair the ones we have.

  3. That is terribly sad news. I wonder if any work has been done to understand what it would take to stabilize the structure. With such ancient origins it would not surprise me if the funds were made available for whatever work was required, should the Turkish authorities find it worthwhile.

  4. Generally, the Turkish government hires the best restorers they can find. The yconsider these sites to be national treasures, and, financially, it is worth it to them, because of the large number of Christian pilgrims the sites attract. I suspect they will do the best they can to save St. Peter’s Grotto.

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