Aya Tekla Church

Aya Tekla Church

The Meryemlik Church, also known as Aya Tekla or Hagia Thekla, is an ancient Byzantine church situated in the Mersin Province of Turkey. Once a popular destination for pilgrimage, the church still draws visitors to this day.

Aya Tekla was inspired by the sermons of St. Paul and converted to Christianity, renouncing her former polytheistic beliefs. This led to hostility from her family and the Iconians, who were the residents of Konya at the time. Throughout her life, Aya Tekla was associated with miraculous events, and despite being sentenced to death by city officials in Iconium and Psidia Antiochia (Yalvaç), she managed to escape execution.

Aya Tekla Church

St. Paul entrusted Aya Tekla with the task of spreading Christianity in the region of Silifke. She settled in Seleucia (modern-day Silifke) and transformed a cave into a secret place of worship, where she provided assistance and healing to the locals. At first, her efforts were met with resistance, but she eventually won over the people of Silifke by using various medicines to cure them.

Saint Tekla gained fame for her ability to heal people in miraculous ways, which quickly spread beyond her hometown to Cyprus. Growing up in a society that believed in multiple gods and goddesses, Tekla managed to defeat powerful figures like Sarpedonius, Jupiter, and Minerva, and used their own beliefs to convert people to monotheism.

Despite her growing influence, the notables of Silifke and fearful doctors plotted to kill her. They sent a group of thugs to attack her in her cave, but she vanished and was never seen again. The cave would later become a monastery-like structure that housed one of the world's first churches, built in memory of a Spanish traveler who stopped in Silifke after becoming a pilgrim in Jerusalem.

Today, the Aya Tekla Church stands as a testament to Tekla's legacy, with additional buildings added after the official acceptance of Christianity. Visitors can still see the remains of the northern church, a bath, a cistern, and a tomb dedicated to Saint Tekla.

Saint Tekla's impact on Christianity was significant enough to make her the only female martyr commemorated by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Her memory is celebrated on September 23rd and 24th by each respective church.