All About Turkey

Religious sites in Turkey

The Anatolian peninsula, spanning on two continents, forms a natural land bridge between Europe and Asia. Due to its unique position, Anatolia has been the destination for numerous immigrants, many of them leaving the indelible mark of their cultural heritage during their settlement in this area, now known as Türkiye (Turkey).

Anatolia has been the cradle of numerous civilizations for thousands of years and the birthplace of the three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This fact alone, lends Turkey its unique and invaluable cultural and archaeological heritage. Because of its secular position in the world, the Turkish attitude toward religion has been on of tolerance.

Judaism, which was the first monotheistic religion, was widespread in Anatolia. Recent archaeological excavations conducted in the Aegean region indicate Judaism's existence since the early 4th century B.C. Sardis (Sart, near Salihli) contains the remains of one of the oldest synagogues dating back to 220 B.C. which provides a fine structural and archaeological example of this place of worship.

Remains of another ancient settlement belonging to the Jewish people was unearthed during excavations conducted along the Aegean and Black Sea Coasts.

The Ottoman Empire had always been tolerant of non-Moslems and never forbid or restricted their worship in accordance with their religion.

In 1324, when Orhan Gazi conquered Bursa, he permitted the Jewish people to construct Etz-Hayim Synagogue. In 1394, the Jewish people departed from France on the orders of Charles VI and look refuge in Edirne.

Then in 1492, Spain's King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castilla expelled the Jews (Inquisition). The Ottoman Empire of that time, ruled by the sultan Beyazid II, had embraced those Jews who were left homeless as a result of their deportation from Spain due to their conventions and beliefs and settled them in Anatolia.

Sephardic Jews had lived for centuries among the Turks in peace and comfort and followed their beliefs under the auspices of Turkish tolerance (secularism).

Anatolia is also as significant area for Christians and is considered holy and sacred for many reasons which include:

The Turks who settled in Anatolia after 1071 constructed many important religious symbols related the to Islamic faith. These examples which reflect the architectural style of the Islamic periods may be classified as follows:

  • Mosques (Cami)
  • Theological Schools of the time (Medrese)
  • Building Complexes adjacent to a Mosque (Külliye)
  • Shrines (Türbe)
  • Tombs with conical roofs (Kümbet)

Turks preserved and protected the synagogues and churches which belonged to the Jewish and Christian faith that exist even in areas where Jewish or Christian populations were practically non-existent.

It must be emphasized here that these well preserved holy places show the best and most concrete example of how the Islamic religion treats other religions in tolerance and respect. Today, you can find hundreds of religious examples in each and every town and city of Turkey, especially in Istanbul.

The Turkish people, the majority of them Moslem, who continue to carry on their traditions and conventions in a contemporary manner and in harmony with their Islamic beliefs, have constructed mosques, tombs and similar religious areas which reflect both the features of Anatolia where the Turks have been living for centuries and their artistic values as well as their religious importance.

An important sector of polytheistic religions had flourished in Anatolia as the monotheistic religions were established in the Middle East and as the religious areas were discovered. These places have been considered holy and sacred since the Middle Ages and were located in Anatolia a region that has and still does act as a cultural bridge due to Turkey's geopolitical situation.

Since Turkey has traditionally been a secular corridor throughout history, its role in international arenas has expanded and is currently one of most strategic regions in the world, if not in the Middle East at his point in time.

During their entire history, the Islamic Turks, as a result of humanitarian attitude toward the beliefs of the followers of other monotheistic religions that they were exposed to, in a vast tolerance in obedience with the rules and beliefs of the Islamic religion, had lived together with numerous ethnic groups in Anatolian areas in peace and content.

The non-Moslem population had the right of living and setting wherever they wanted during both the Ottoman period and the republican era. Without any discrimination Islamic or non-Islamic Turkish citizens have had the right of jurisdiction, religious belief and concept and conducted their religious services, prayers and ceremonies freely in their holy places such as mosques, churches and synagogues.

As a result of this tolerant recognition all the divine places belonging to Judaism and Christianity have been carefully preserved and protected.

In the following list, the green spots represent Islam, the red spots represent Christianity, and the blue spots represent Judaism. You can get more information on individual sites by clicking on the links.

  SITE LOCATION
green.gif (914 bytes) Seljuk Kumbet and Tomstones Ahlat
Mount Ararat Agri
red.gif (910 bytes) Tyatira / One of the Seven Churches 
of Apocalypse
Akhisar (Manisa)
red.gif (910 bytes) Alahan Monastry Alahan
red.gif (910 bytes) Philadelphia / One of the Seven Churces 
of Apocalypse
Alasehir
green.gif (914 bytes) Sultan Beyazid Complex Amasya
green.gif (914 bytes) Haci Bayram Veli Complex  Ankara
red.gif (910 bytes) Galatia Ankara
green.gif (914 bytes) Habib-ün Nencar Complex Antakya
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Peter's Grotto Antakya
Mosaic Museum Antakya
green.gif (914 bytes) Yivli Minaret Antalya
red.gif (910 bytes) Pergamum / One of the Seven Churches 
of  Apocalypse
Bergama
blue.gif (909 bytes) Gerus Synagogue Bursa
green.gif (914 bytes) Muradiye Complex Bursa
green.gif (914 bytes) Ulu (Grand) Mosque Bursa
green.gif (914 bytes) Yesil (Green) Turbe Bursa
red.gif (910 bytes) Monastries Çamiçi (Bafa) Lake
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Paul's First Missionary Journey Çevlik
red.gif (910 bytes) Saint Nicholas Church Demre (Myra)
green.gif (914 bytes) Ulu (Grand) Mosque Divrigi
green.gif (914 bytes) Ulu Mosque Diyarbakir
red.gif (910 bytes) Church of the Virgin Mary Diyarbakir
green.gif (914 bytes) Selimiye Complex Edirne
green.gif (914 bytes) Beyazid Mosque Edirne
green.gif (914 bytes) Old Mosque Edirne
red.gif (910 bytes) Virgin Mary's House Ephesus
red.gif (910 bytes) Virgin Mary Basilica
Ecumenical Basilica and One of the 
Seven Churches of Apocalypse
Ephesus
red.gif (910 bytes) St.John's Basilica Ephesus
green.gif (914 bytes) Cifte (Twin) Minaret Medrese Erzurum
green.gif (914 bytes) Abdurrahman Gazi Tomb Erzurum
green.gif (914 bytes) Village of Yunus Emre
Yunus Emre Monument
Eskisehir
green.gif (914 bytes) Seyid Battal Gazi Complex Eskisehir (Seyitgazi)
red.gif (910 bytes) Early Christian Settlement Goreme Milli Parki (Cappadocia)
green.gif (914 bytes) Haci Bektas Veli Complex Hacibektas
blue.gif (909 bytes) Harran
(According to the Old Testament
Abraham lived here)
Harran (Sanliurfa)
green.gif (914 bytes) Eyub Sultan Istanbul (Eyüp)
green.gif (914 bytes) Holy Relics Istanbul (Topkapi Palace)
green.gif (914 bytes) Suleymaniye Complex Istanbul
green.gif (914 bytes) Sultanahmet Complex Istanbul
red.gif (910 bytes) Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Church Istanbul
red.gif (910 bytes) Kariye Museum Istanbul
blue.gif (909 bytes) Neve Shalom and Ahrida Synagogues Istanbul
red.gif (910 bytes) Smyrna / One of the Seven Churches of 
Apocalypse
Izmir
green.gif (914 bytes) Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) Iznik
red.gif (910 bytes) Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Museum Iznik
red.gif (910 bytes) Hipoje-Christian Tomb Iznik
red.gif (910 bytes) Havariler Museum Kars
green.gif (914 bytes) Cave of Seven Sleepers Kahramanmaras (Afsin)
green.gif (914 bytes) Huand Hatun Complex Kayseri
green.gif (914 bytes) Gevher Nesibe Complex Kayseri
green.gif (914 bytes) Doner Kumbet Kayseri
green.gif (914 bytes) Mevlana Complex Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Alaeddin Mosque Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Ince (Thin) Minaret Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Tombs of Seljuk Sultans Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Karatay Medrese Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Derbe Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Karadag Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Lystra Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Sumela Monastery Macka (Trabzon)
green.gif (914 bytes) Sultan Mosque Manisa
red.gif (910 bytes) Deyrul Zaferan Monastery Mardin
red.gif (910 bytes) Alexandria Troas
Believed that St.Paul met St.Luke here
Odun Iskelesi (Canakkale)
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Philip's Martyrium - Octagon Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
red.gif (910 bytes) Laodicea / One of the Seven
Churches of Apocalypse
Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
red.gif (910 bytes) Colossae Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Nicholas' birthplace Patara (Antalya)
red.gif (910 bytes) Episcopal centers Perge, Silion and Side
blue.gif (909 bytes) Sardis Synagogue Sart (Manisa)
red.gif (910 bytes) Sardis / One of the Seven Churches of
Apocalypse
Sart
green.gif (914 bytes) Tombs of Ibrahim Hakki Efendi and
Hazreti Fakirullah 
Siirt (Aydinlar)
green.gif (914 bytes) Veysel Karani Complex Siirt (Baykan)
red.gif (910 bytes) Basilica of the First Female Saint,
Aya Tekla
Silifke
green.gif (914 bytes) Seyit Battal Tomb Sinop
green.gif (914 bytes) Gokmedrese Sivas
green.gif (914 bytes) Çifte (Twin) Minaret Medrese Sivas
green.gif (914 bytes) Sifaiye Medrese Sivas
green.gif (914 bytes) Halil Rahman Mosque Sanliurfa
green.gif (914 bytes) The Prophet Eyub's Tomb Sanliurfa
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Paul's Well Tarsus (Mersin)
green.gif (914 bytes) Gülbahar Hatun Tomb and Mosque Trabzon
red.gif (910 bytes) Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Museum Trabzon
red.gif (910 bytes) Akdamar Church Van
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Paul's Basilica Yalvac (Psidian Antioch)

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