Ayathekla in Cilicia






The entrance to the cave church


Ayathekla, also Ayatekla, is the Turkish name of a place of pilgrimage of Saint Thekla. The village is located in the south of the ancient Seleukia at the Kalykadnos, today's district town Silifke, about two kilometres southeast of the castle there.


Inside the cave church  

Legend has it that Saint Thekla, originally a noble virgin from Iconion, after her conversion by the apostle Paul and longer persecutions in the 1st century A.D., spent her life here in a cave and is also buried here. In the 2nd century a first church was built over this cave and its shrine.



The place became a popular pilgrimage destination, especially for female pilgrims. 374 Gregory of Nazianz retired for some time, in 384 the consecrated virgin Egeria visited the place on her return journey from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In her itinerary she reports about the church and numerous monk cells in the area. The location of this first church could not yet be located. Shortly afterwards, the shrine was moved to a cave on the southern slope of the hill, into which a three-nave crypt was built. At the time of Egeria's visit, the pilgrimage area was surrounded by a strong wall to protect it from the raids of predatory saurians. In 476, the Eastern Roman Emperor Zenon the Isaurian extended the sanctuary by adding a basilica. At the end of the 5th to the beginning of the 6th century an active building activity developed, at least two further churches, a public bath and several cisterns were established. In Korasion, Korykos, Olba, Seleukia and Anemurion, inscriptions referring to Saint Thekla were found.




The exit




In Ottoman times the area was attributed to Maria and was therefore called Meriamlik, the name has remained until today. It is under this name that the French traveller Victor Langlois describes the place in his 1861 report on his trip to Cilicia.





Thekla Basilica, remains of the apse




Above the cave was the Thekla Basilica, of which only a part of the apse is preserved today. Based on archaeological findings, a three-nave columned basilica with dimensions of about 70×40 m was developed. In front of it was a narthex with a flight of steps, from which one reached the three naves with 15 columns each. The apse, which had four semicircular double windows, was adjoined on both sides by chapel-like side rooms. In the south there was a porch along the entire length of the church, which lent the building a representative character.







Around the cave and church there is a Temenos district surrounded by a fortification wall. Within this area were several cisterns and a monastery. One of the cisterns is exposed and open to the public. North of the fortified area were a public bath and at least two other churches, the so-called domed church and the still unearthed northern church. The domed church, which dates back to the late 5th century, is a three-nave gallery church with a semicircular atrium and narthex to the west. Whether it was really domed or rather, comparable to the Eastern Church in nearby Alahan Manastırı, covered with an octagonal wooden pyramid roof is controversial.

In the Cistern    
Photos: @chim    
Translation aid: www.DeepL.com/Translator    
Source: Wikipedia and others