ANTAKYA & ST.PIERRE

Hatay (Antioch, Antakya) Archaeology Museum contains one of the world's finest collections of Roman and Byzantine mosaics, covering a period from the first century CE through the fifth century.  Many were recovered almost intact from Tarsus or Harbiye (Daphne in ancient times), nine kilometers to the south.  Among the museum's highlights are the full-body mosaic of Oceanus and Thetis (second century) and the Buffet Mosaic (third century), with its depictions of dishes of chicken, fish, and eggs.  Thalassa and the Nude Fishermen shows children riding whales and dolphins, while the fabulous third-century mosaics of Narcissus and Orpheus depict stories from mythology.  Other mosaics in the collection have quirkier subjects.  Three of the museum's most famous are the happy hunchback with an oversized phallus; the black fisherman; and the mysterious portrayal of a raven, a scorpion, a dog, and a pitchfork attacking an “evil eye.”  The museum also showcases artifacts recovered from various mounds and tumuli (burial mounds) in the area, including a Hittite mound near Dörtyol, sixteen kilometers north of Iskenderun.  Taking pride of place in the collection is the so-called Antakya Sarcophagus (Antakya Lahdı), an impossibly ornate tomb with an unfinished reclining figure on the lid.
 

This early Christian church cut into the slopes of Mount Staurin (Mountain of the Cross) is thought to be the earliest place where the newly converted met and prayed secretly.  Both Peter and Paul lived in Antakya (Antioch) for several years, and they almost certainly preached here.  Tradition has it that this cave was the property of Saint Luke the Evangelist, who was born in Antioch, and that he donated it to the burgeoning Christian congregation.

The oldest surviving parts of the church date from the fourth or fifth centuries, including some pieces of floor mosaics and traces of frescoes.  When the First Crusaders took Antioch in 1098, they constructed the wall at the front and the narthex, the narrow vestibule along the west side of the church.  To the right of the altar, faint traces of an early fresco can be seen, and some of the simple mosaic floor survives. The water dripping in the corner is said to cure disease.

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