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Hatay, St. Pierre Church

Date of Submission: 15/04/2011
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Antakya District, City of Hatay
Ref.: 5613
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

St. Pierre Church is located on the west side of Asi River and by the west foot of Hac (Staurin) Mountain. The area where the church was constructed is the antique city of Antiokheia. As the Antiokheia got bigger between II. and IV. Centuries, church turned to be in the middle of the city, near the Agora. This means the building was important in the social life of people in that era. Although there is no concrete data on the exact construction date, the oral tradition, historical events and development process of the city suggest that the building was used since the first Christians in Antakya.

The cave in which the church was constructed is the place St. Pierre firstly preached. Later it was turned to an official church. The one-spaced building has 9,5 meters width, 13 meters length and 7 meters height. Its first construction is thought to consist of a cradle vaulted space acquired by caving a huge rock. This part was used since the period of first Christians of Antakya. This dates to an early time as 38-39 AD. Secondly, stone walls and two stone columns were added. By adding of these elements, building was enlarged. This two columned intervention separated the space into three naves.

The west façade was constructed by Kapuchin Priests in 19th century. The traces on the façade and platform in front suggest that there was a portico here formerly. West façade show a regional style which has a threefold layout. This façade was constructed by hewn stones and has three portals, middle one of which is bigger than the others.

The platform of hewn stones, altar and St. Pierre sculpture in a niche belong to recent times.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

St. Pierre, to whom the church was dedicated, is the founder of the Antakya Church and the archpriest of the first Christian Community here and also the first Pope in the world. St. Pierre church and its surroundings played a significant role in the period of the early Christianity and expansion of the belief. The church is admitted as the first cathedral of the world and was announced as a place of pilgrimage by the Pope in 1963. Because of the building witnessed the first Christians and their meetings, it bears a unique importance.

Criterion (iii): The Antakya region where St. Pierre Church was constructed was one of the oldest Anatolian and Near Eastern settlements. In such a city, St. Pierre Church as its close position to the Agora was the most important gathering place of the Christians. With the Christianity turned out to be the official religion of Roman State, the building gained a church form. St. Pierre Church bears unique cultural, historical and religious testimony to the practices of early Christians. Their experiences expanded to the world and became the first seeds of Christian rituals. It is believed that the people who define themselves as "Christians" first-time in history, were the community of this church.

Criterion (vi): In Antakya, from where the Christianity was transformed and expanded to the other parts of the world, St. Pierre Church played a significant role as it witnessed the process. Because of its unique symbolic preeminence among other religious monuments, it is a respected and well treated church by people.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Antakya, St. Pierre Church was registered as "cultural property to be protected" in 30/06/2005 and by the decision numbered 799 of Regional Committee of Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties in Adana.

Comparison with other similar properties

There is a number of places which is claimed to be the first church in the world. One of them is St. Georgeous church in Rihab, Jordan. This depends on the beliefs of different traditions. St. Pierre church is known to be the place where St. Pierre firstly preached to community. When we consider St. Pierre is admitted to be the first Pope, St. Pierre Church can be regarded as the origin of the Catholic Organization.