My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Travelling through Greece - In the Steps of St Paul - Philippi and Lydia

Celebrating Eucharist at Lydia

 This morning we are set for Philippi, the first city in Europe visited by St Paul and the city where he and Silas were imprisoned, as told in Acts 16 11-40. The church of Philippi, the first Christian Church in Europe, was perhaps the most supportive of all to Paul (Paul's Letter to the Philippians 4) and he always held a special affection for them.
The Lydia baptistry
We will also visit the stream by the village of Lydia, where a shrine has been built commemorating the baptism of Lydia of Thyatira (in Asia Minor, known for its purple cloth) the first recorded baptism in Europe. Here in the open air down by the river we celebrate a group Eucharist, and renew our baptismal vows, the background noisy rush of the water in stark contrast to the solemnity of the occasion and the dainty damsel fly and the seed heads floating down on the ever so slight breeze.
Inside the Baptistry at Lydia
inside the baptistry at Lydia
On the coach we learn something of the history of Baptism in the early church. The St Lydia baptistery attracted adults from communist countries to be baptized as Christians in the 1990s.

In the Greek Orthodox church the godparents give the baby to the priest who totally immerses the child. 

St Nicholas Church Kavala 
But first we briefly visited the church of St Nicholas in Kavala, with its mosaic and the supposed post where Paul may have tied up his boat on arrival in Kavala. According to tradition, a mark on one of the ancient pillars is supposed to be Apostle Paul’s footprint, left there from the time that he first visited Macedonia.

Finding the shade at Philippi!
 From Lydia's shrine we make our way to  Philippi, then capital of this region, founded 360 BC, fortified and named by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Gold mining in the area would have enabled the accumulation of wealth and the spread of the civilization here and this potential was not lost on Philip II.
mosaic floor above Macedonian tomb
at Philippi
the theatre at Philippi
Philippi on the Egnatian road
Then in 42 BC after the murder of Julius Caesar, two armies met at Philippi. The forces of Brutus and Cassius, both involved in Caesar's murder, met those of Mark Anthony and Octavian (who became Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor, ruling from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD) - who won the great battle, marking the start of a new era with Philippi as a Roman colony. Paul's later visit to Philippi (Acts 16: 11-40) would have found a thoroughly Roman and important city - the first main stop on the Egnatian Way from Asia to the Adriatic
part of a Basilica Philippi
Philippi Basilicas beyond the forum
And so Philippi was the seed bed not only of the Roman Empire, but of the Christian church in Europe. 
The excavated ruins at Philippi expose the foundations of three great basilicas as well as a magnificent forum and fine theatre. 

Paul's prison cell
Philippi is hot! The shadows are black from the fierce overhead sun. Many scurry from one tiny patch of shade to the next, afforded only by the wider pillars. But the site is very well organised to cope with the tourist crowds, and is kept amazingly clean and litter free- oh how other sites in other countries could follow this example.

Roman toilet!
The baptised Lydia gave hospitality to Paul and Silas and enabled the missionaries to form a thriving Christian community here in Philippi
Here they also exorcised a slave girl, for which they were beaten and imprisoned. They escape during an earthquake - and the jailer and his family were converted and baptised to the faith. We see the prison ruins where Paul is said to have been confined.

Roman game in the pavement
Of course we cannot always know the precise locations of some biblical events and some are speculative from best information available, but it is important for us to be able to centre these events with specific places to make for more meaningful commemoration.

Next post I return to Kavala before we head for Thessaloniki...

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post and photos of a place we hear about often but know so little about! Thanks for the background. I'm looking forward to reading about your latest pilgrimage--only now finding the time to read and share your adventures.