Byzantine Empire & Church History Tour

This sample tour is filled with ideas for your Byzantine Empire & Church History Tour.

DESTINATION: Turkey (aka Asia Minor)

Length of Tour: 14 days

Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour


THEME: “It’s All About Relationships!”

By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. (John 15:8)

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourOn the Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour we’ll explore what it meant for the 4th century Roman Emperor Constantine to declare Christianity to be the state religion. Indeed, the world was changed forever. In 325 AD, he called together all of the bishops of the church for what would later be called the First Ecumenical Council in the city of Nicea. Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) got it all wrong! This was not a conspiracy, but it was a very successful attempt to unify the formerly persecuted Christian church with a single statement of faith. The result was the Nicene Creed.

Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer, Byzantine Empire and Church History Tourwrote that all true Christian doctrine flows from the Bible, that any other approach is mere speculation and dangerous for the Christian soul. As we proceed on the Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour, we’ll explore the Scriptures, studying the meaning of the Nicene Creed, how this is about a relationship between the 3-persons of the Holy Trinity for the sake of our relationship with God in Jesus Christ. We’ll learn about how this is a relationship concerning eternal redemption, but it also has to do with a believer’s daily renewal of spirit and mind.

Istanbul’s history is deep and broad. Here’s a little travel guide video that will give you a taste of its awesomeness!


Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 1  Today, we leave home to begin our journey!

DAY 2  Welcome to Turkey! We’ll begin the Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour with a meeting in our hotel in Istanbul around 5 p.m. After our “Welcome to Turkey” meeting, we’ll enjoy our first meal together at an eatery on the famous Istiklal Caddesi pedestrian way in the Beyoglu district. We’ll be in Istanbul for 3-nights.

DAY 3  An Immersion Into a Way of Life: After breakfast, we’ll hit the ground running with an introduction to the Byzantine Empire and Church History. The power of an immersion in Eastern Orthodox art forms cannot be overstated. It is not only colors and form, but a culture, a way of life with a centeredness in the Christian faith of the Apostles. We’ll tour the Byzantine Empire and Church History TourMosaics Museum, which houses the mosaic floors and murals from the now vanished Byzantine Great Palace; Hagia Sophia (photo), the great cathedral (now museum) built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century; the monuments of the Hippodrome; the cavernous, 6th century Basilica Cistern; and the Archaeological Museum.

DAY 4  A Glimpse Into the Heart of Byzantine Christianity: As we immerse ourselves in the Byzantine Empire and church history, we’ll visit several churches. We’ll visit Chora Church (photo),Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour with its vivid mosaics of Christ and the Virgin Mary; Pammakaristos Church, with its famous mosaic of Christ Pantocrator or “Christ Omnipotent One”; St. Mary of Mongols Church, one of the few ancient churches never converted into a mosque in Istanbul; and the Church of St. George, today the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church and the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians throughout the world. Here you’ll notice the prominent Byzantine eagle, an eagle with two heads, one pointing toward the west and the other, east, representing the two seats of power of the ancient empire, Rome and the “new Rome,” Constantinople.

DAY 5  The Creeds Are About Relationships, Part I: After breakfast we’ll continue our Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour with a drive to ancient Nicea (Iznik today), beginning a 2-day retreat. This was the location of the 1st and 7th Ecumenical Councils, where the Byzantine Empire and Church History TourNicene Creed of the Christian church was written. Our hotel overlooks Iznik Lake (photo), the same body of water which the 4th century bishops looked out over as they meditated on the nature of their relationship to God in Christ. We’ll consider this relationship by examining the Nicene Creed, its Biblical foundation, and the work of the early church fathers.

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 6  The Creeds Are About Relationships, Part II: Today, we’ll continue the Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour by focusing on the joy and confidence the Lord has given us for our day-to-day walk with Him. In the afternoon, we’ll explore various sites in and around Iznik, including the Iznik Museum and the Basilica (site of the 7th Ecumenical Council, 787 AD) (photo).

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 7  Fairyland! We’ll fly to Cappadocia, the center of Turkey, an that magical land of fairy chimneys, underground cities, cave dwellings and a very significant region for our study of the Byzantine Empire and Church History. For our overnight sleeping arrangements we’ll split our group between a couple of B&Bs built into the fairy chimneys in the town of Goreme (gore-E-may). These places are too much fun for words! You’ve got to experience them for yourself! We’ll be here for 3-nights.

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 8  Open Air Museums: We’ll begin our day with an exploration of the rock-cut churches found in the Goreme Open Air Museum. Domes, crosses & frescos fill these little chapels dotting the landscape. CLICK HERE for a 360° Virtual Tour of this site, compliments of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture & Tourism.

We’ll also tour the Zelve Open Air Museum. It hosts cave dwellings which were the center of the Christian monastic life in the 9th-13th centuries, a critical time in the latter period of the Byzantine Empire and church history we’re exploring. Everyone will dine on their own tonight. An option for those who’d like an aweseome, bird’s eye view of the Cappadocian landscape is a hot air balloon ride.

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 9  They Lived In the Belly of the Earth: We’ll continue our Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour with a descent into Kaymakli Underground City, one of the underground cities Christians dwelt in during times of persecution, complete with stables, wineries, chapels, kitchens, and living quarters many stories underground. Afterwards, you’ll be ready for some fresh air! We’ll hike through the Ihlara Valley, where we’ll explore the fresco-decorated Byzantine churches cut into the cliffs by monks a 1,000 years ago.

DAY 10  Ephesus: After a short flight to Izmir in southwestern Turkey, we’ll be ready to begin our 3-day journey back to Constantinople/Istanbul. First stop, Ephesus, one of the most important and best preserved cities of antiquity in the world. We’ll spend one night in Seljuk, the sister city of Ephesus. Ephesus was a vital port city in the Roman Empire, but it was also important in the early church, for the work of Paul and John and those who would follow. We’ll Byzantine Empire and Church History Tourspend the day in Ephesus, taking in all of the sites, from the ancient library to the agora, from the theaters and fountains to St. Mary’s Church, important for our tour of the Byzantine Empire and church history, as it was the location of the 3rd Ecumenical Council, 431 AD. We’ll also visit the now very dilapidated Temple of Artemis (worth seeing for it was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World) and the Basilica of St. John (the site of St. John’s grave).

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 11  Pergamum: Continuing our journey north, exploring the Byzantine Empire and church history, we’ll spend time in Pergamum, one of the 7 Cities of the Revelation of St. John. We’ll visit the Acropolis, with its breathtaking view some 1,300 feet above the city below, and the Asclepion. Only ruins today, but this site was the hub of leadership in the field medicine for over a 1,000 years. As you hear the running water under the streets today, you might reflect on how the physicians of antiquity used these waters as “living waters” in which they bathed their patients, hoping for healing. We’ll spend one night in the city of Assos.

Byzantine Empire and Church History TourDAY 12  Alexandria Troas & Troy: Today,  we’ll head back to Istanbul. On the way, we’ll stop in Alexandria Troas, built by Alexander the Great (4th century BC); visited by Paul during his missionary journeys; and a capital of the Byzantine Empire. We’ll also tour Troy. Shrouded in mythology for 1,000s of years, historians were not sure it actually existed except in the imagination of Homer until its ruins were discovered in the late 19th century. Now you may walk the dig, viewing the 9-layers of civilization which have been unearthed, dating back 5,000 years. We’ll be back in Istanbul for two nights.

DAY 13  Free day:Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour Having completed the Byzantine Empire and Church History Tour, today you’ll be able to pick-up whatever sites and experiences you still want to have before you leave. Maybe a mosque or museum, an authentic Turkish massage, a visit to a Turkish carpet store in the Grand Bazaar? Whatever you decide to do make sure you’re back in time for our dinner cruise on the Bosphorus Strait!

DAY 14  God bless you with many great memories from your Byzantine Empire & Church History Tour on your way home!