This sample tour is filled with ideas for your Byzantine Empire & Church History Tour.
DESTINATION: Turkey (aka Asia Minor)
Length of Tour: 14 days
INCLUDES EDUCATIONAL RETREAT IN NICEA
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)
On 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, wrote 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, well 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. Well learn about how this is a relationship concerning eternal redemption, but it also has to do with a believers 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 & CHURCH HISTORY TOUR ITINERARY
DAY 1 Today, we leave home to begin our journey!
DAY 2 Welcome to Turkey! Well 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, well enjoy our first meal together at an eatery on the famous Istiklal Caddesi pedestrian way in the Beyoglu district. Well be in Istanbul for 3-nights.
DAY 3 An Immersion Into a Way of Life: After breakfast, well 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. Well tour the Mosaics 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, well visit several churches. Well visit Chora Church (photo), 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 youll 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 well 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 Nicene 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. Well consider this relationship by examining the Nicene Creed, its Biblical foundation, and the work of the early church fathers.
DAY 6 The Creeds Are About Relationships, Part II: Today, well 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, well explore various sites in and around Iznik, including the Iznik Museum and the Basilica (site of the 7th Ecumenical Council, 787 AD) (photo).
DAY 7 Fairyland! Well 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 well 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! Youve got to experience them for yourself! Well be here for 3-nights.
DAY 8 Open Air Museums: Well 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.
Well 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 whod like an aweseome, birds eye view of the Cappadocian landscape is a hot air balloon ride.
DAY 9 They Lived In the Belly of the Earth: Well 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, youll be ready for some fresh air! Well hike through the Ihlara Valley, where well 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, well 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. Well 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. Well spend the day in Ephesus, taking in all of the sites, from the ancient library to the agora, from the theaters and fountains to St. Marys Church, important for our tour of the Byzantine Empire and church history, as it was the location of the 3rd Ecumenical Council, 431 AD. Well 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. Johns grave).
DAY 11 Pergamum: Continuing our journey north, exploring the Byzantine Empire and church history, well 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. Well spend one night in the city of Assos.
DAY 12 Alexandria Troas & Troy: Today, well head back to Istanbul. On the way, well 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. Well 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. Well be back in Istanbul for two nights.
DAY 13 Free day: 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 youre 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!