Paul was born in Tarsus, southern part of Turkey in ancient Cilicia. His date of birth is placed by the scholars between 1 AD and 6th AD. He was named after Saul, the first king of Israel. He came from a rich and powerful Jewish family. His father or his relatives obtained the Roman citizenship and full civil rights of the city of Tarsus.
Educated by his mother and his father during his early years, Paul was sent to Jerusalem for further studies and studied at the academy of Gameliel, one of the most respected Jewish teachers. During the early years, he took action against Christians and took part in their persecutions. His name spread all over the Roman world and created fear. His life totally changed after his vision when Christ appeared to him on the way to Damascus. Christ appeared to him and said:
"Paul, why you persecute me"
Paul who got blind after his vision, he was healed with the help of one of the disciples. When he returned to Jerusalem great difficulties were waiting for him. Neither Christian nor Jewish believed or trusted him. He returned to his home town, Tarsus. His writings no where indicate that he knew Jesus or his disciples. He left Jerusalem and returned Tarsus during the Christ's ministry and he didn't return to Jerusalem till Jesus' death.
After Saint Barnabas found him in Tarsus and persuaded him to come to Antioch with him, Saint Paul made three great successive journeys which covered big part of Anatolia and Greece. Finally, after his third missionary trip, he was arrested in Jerusalem. Since he wanted to appeal to Ceaser, he was taken to Rome. After two years imprisonment in Rome, he was found innocent and was freed.
Paul and Peter were arrested after the great fire of Rome and were blamed for. Peter was crucified up side down on the capitol hill where there is great church of Vatican now. As to Paul, since he was a Roman citizen he was beheaded near Ostia gate in Rome.
Simon, a fisherman from Bethsaida; was called by Jesus together with his brother Andrew, while washing the nets on the shore, by the lake of Genessaret. Jesus changed his name to Peter, which means Rock, explaining that on him he would build his church. He was appointed the first among the twelve by the Lord and charged to feed "his lambs and his sheep". On Pentecost, he is the one to preach to the crowds the resurrection of the Lord and he is the first to state that the Good News is to be preached to Jews and pagans alike. He was imprisoned by Herod Agrippa I and miraculously delivered. He presided over the first official meeting of the Apostles (49 - 50 A.D.) and visited the church in Antioch (Antakya) considered to be the first See of Peter. He came to Rome, and here, as bishop of Rome, bearing witness to Christ, he was crucified, head downwards, on the Vatican hill under Nero around the year 67 A.D. His remains were found, after long and meticulous excavations, under the main altar of the Vatican Basilica. He wrote two letters to the Christian churches, mainly made up of converts from paganism, that reflect a time of trial through which these churches were passing, emphasizing the need of fortitude in persecution.
Joseph, surnamed Barnabas "son of encouragement" by the Apostles, was a Levite from Cyprus. He might have been one of the 72 disciples of the Lord. If not the founder, he was certainly the one who organized the church in Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were for the first time called CHRISTIANS. He introduced Paul to the church of Antioch and became his faithful companion in many of his missionary endeavors. According to tradition, he was stoned by the Jews in Salamina. His feast day falls on June 11 in both the Catholic and Orthodox Church.
Titus, born pagan, was converted to the Gospel by Paul during his first journey. Together with Barnabas, he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem where the problem of the circumcision of the pagans was discussed and resolved. He was entrusted by Paul to collect alms for the Christian Jews of Jerusalem, as well as his special envoy to the troubled church in Corinth. From Paul's letter to him it is evident that he was residing in Crete.
A faithful follower and companion of Paul, very probably he was converted by the Apostle during his first journey. Son of a pagan father and Jewish mother, Paul had him circumcised to facilitate his ministry among the Jews. He accompanied Paul in the second and third journey and was with him during the first imprisonment. Paul left him as Bishop in Ephesus, and prisoner in Rome, asked him to reach him and keep him company.
Silas was a Roman citizen probably converted by Paul himself. After parting with Barnabas, Paul chose him as his companion in his second journey. He was arrested and imprisoned with Paul in Philippi. He is considered as the first bishop of Corinth.
We have no written historical evidence witnessing to the presence of the Virgin Mary in Anatolia. The Gospel mentions Mary when narrating the birth and childhood of Christ and, 'en passant,' only once during the public life. John himself, in the Gospel, mentions Mary twice: in the Cana wedding account and in that of the passion, telling us how Christ addressed his Mother from the cross entrusting to her the disciple he loved and entrusting to John his Mother. According to a very old local tradition, during the first persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem, in the year 49 A.D., the Apostles thought to put the Mother of the Lord in safety, and John, to whom the Lord had entrusted his Mother, accompanied Mary to Ephesus, where she might have lived, if not until she died, at least for some years, until the situation in Jerusalem changed. Meryem Ana Evi, or the House of Mother Mary is the Shrine, partly reconstructed, of the small house where the Blessed Virgin lived during her stay on the mountain overlooking Ephesus.
Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus)
One of the most popular Saints in the Christian world, his figure is shrouded in legends and folklore. Born in Patara, a port in the province of Lycia, around 270 A.D., we know that he was bishop of Myra at the time of Constantine the Great and that he took part in the first Ecumenical Council, Nicean l in 325 A.D. His remains rested in the church dedicated to God in his honour until 1087, when some Italian sailors from Bari, devotees of this Patron Saint of seafarers, succeeded in taking his relics to Bari, where they were laid in a Basilica built in his honour. His feast day is celebrated both in the east and west on December 6.Greece and Russia among other countries adopted him as their Patron Saint. Probably, the legend that he helped a poor father to provide a decent dowry for his 3 daughters, throwing the money through an open window, thus making it possible for them to get married, and also because his feast day falls so very close to Christmas, a day on which gifts are exchanged among relatives and friends, he became associated with this tradition. In northern Europe, Germany first, and then in Scandinavia and other countries worldwide, he became the legendary figure of Santa Clause, who brings presents to children on Christmas night.
Nicomedia (Iznik), Antioch (Antakya) and Heliopolis all claim to have been her birth place, in the second half of the third century or early fourth. Converted to the Christian faith at a very young age, her father, Dioscorus, after trying hard to gain her back to the pagan rites, denounced her to the prefect of the city and himself executed the death sentence beheading her. The Passio Barbarae (the account of her martyrdom) refers that her father was struck by a lightning and died on the spot after killing his daughter. Her feast day falls on December 4.
In Hierapolis (Pamukkale), are the ruins of a monumental church, built in the early years of the fifth century, on the martyrion of Saint Philip. Although Eusebius, in his Historia Ecclesiastica reproduces an extract from a letter written to Pope Victor stating that the Apostle Philip died here, historians do not agree whether this Philip is the Apostle or one of the seven first deacons appointed by the Apostles.
Bishop of Sebaste (Sivas) in Cappadocia, Blaise is one of the last victims of the Roman persecution against Christians under Licinius. He is commemorated on February 2.
Gregory is said to be son of Anak, a Parthian prince of Persian origin. Kusev killed Anak and all his family, whom he feared as possible contender to the throne. The little Gregory was saved from the massacre by a Christian lady who adopted him as a son and brought him up as a Christian in Caesarea. He became a monk and dedicated his life to spread the Gospel.
In Iconium (Konya), among those who embraced the Good News, through the preaching of Saint Paul, there was a certain young girl called Thecla. She broke up her engagement and decided to dedicate her life to God. Her family and, in particular, her fiancée, could not accept her conversion and, being unable to make her change her mind, they denounced her and had her arrested. Condemned to death and miraculously saved, Thecla went to Seleucia (Silifke) and took refuge in a cave, where she lived until very old age. Her commemoration falls on September 23.
He was born around the year 81 A.D. and was a disciple of some of those who knew John the Apostle. Third Bishop of Smyrna, around the year 160, he went to Rome to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the celebration of Easter. He was martyred in 167 A.D., at the age of 87 years.
He was born in Nisibis, southeast of Mardin and for some years led a monastic life. He was bishop of the city for twenty years, from 309 approximately to 338, the year of his death. Mar Yakup Church, here his body rests, was originally built to whom Saint John, in the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse, addresses seven letters. They are all en the Aegean region: Ephesus (Seljuk), Smyrna (İzmir), Pergamon (Bergama), Thyatira (Akhisar), Sardis (Sart), Philadelphia (Alaşehir) and Laodicea, off Denizli on the way to Pamukkale. Of these, the only surviving Christian community is in İzmir.
Constantine the Great, son of Constantius Clorus and Helena, after defeating Licinius, transferred the capital of the whole Roman empire, east and west, from Rome to Byzantium. He took up the reconstruction of the city, which he wanted to be worthy to be considered "a second Rome". He decreed that the Christian faith was the official religion of the state and the Church after 3 long centuries was able to come out in the open and breath freely without any fear of persecution. He built churches dedicated to Christ under different titles and one dedicated to Christ under different titles and one dedicated to the Twelve Holy Apostles, in which he wanted to be buried. He put an end to crucifixion as a death penalty and for the first time the cross adorned the imperial crown. He adapted the law code to the new religion and granted many privileges to the Church. He died in Nicomedia (Izmit) on May 22,337 and was buried according to his will in the Apostoleion, or the Church of the Holy Apostles.
Ephraem was born in Nisibis (Nusaybin), Syria, in 306 A.D. At a very young age he became a Christian and joined the monastic life. Later he was ordained deacon. During the Persian occupation of Nisibi he went to Edessa (Urfa), an important Syrian religious and cultural centre. A good speaker and scholar, he defended in his writings and sermons the catholic faith against some errors propagated by heretics. His hymns are still sung in the liturgy by the Syrian churches. He died in Edessa and is venerated as a Doctor in both Catholic and Orthodox churches on June 9 and January 28 respectively.
Born in Caesarea (Kayseri), in a Christian family, Basil studied in Constantinople and Athens and gained for himself the fame of a brilliant theologian. He actively fought the Arian heresy and upheld the unchangeable truths and principles of the Christian faith. He is the "Father" of monasticism. He founded monasteries and, above all, he wrote The Rule of monastic life still in use in Orthodox monasteries. In 370 he was appointed Bishop of Caesarea. He defended the poor and did much to help them. One of the great Fathers of the church, his feast is held on January 2.
Nazianzus, in Cappadocia, is the city that gave birth to Gregory. Intimate friend of Basil from youth, he too followed the monastic way of life. In 379 he was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople at the height of the Arian controversy, where he stayed only for two years handing in his resignation during the First Constantinopolitan Council and retired in Nazianzus where he died. His learning and his power of oratory were remarkable and gained him the title of "The Theologian". He is commemorated on January 2, together with Saint Basil.
Brother of Basil the Great, like him he lead a monastic life until he was elected Bishop of Nyssa. During the Council of Constantinople he revealed his philosophic acumen and was acclaimed as one of the greatest exponents of Christian Orthodoxy.
Helen was born in Drepanum, Bithinia, in the middle of the third century. She got married to Constantius Clorus, who later divorced her for state reasons in order to be able to succeed to Diocletian as emperor. Out of this wedlock Constantine the Great was born, who after the death of his father, inherited the imperial throne. He called Helena by his side and lavishly granted her the title of "August Empress". She distinguished herself for her deep concern for the suffering, in particular for political prisoners and their families, the poor and the sick. In the year 326, already over 80, she set out as a pilgrim to the Holy Land. It was the dream of her life. There, after praying on the places where Jesus was born, died and was buried, she ordered that excavations be started. On the Golgotha, the cross on which Christ died was found. She had churches built in Bethlehem, on the Mount of The Olives, from where the risen Lord ascended into heaven, and the Anastasis basilica enshrining the grave where the lifeless body of Christ was laid after the crucifixion, and from where he rose up again to life. She died very probably in Constantinople and was buried in Rome around the year 328/30. Her feast day in the Catholic Church is held on August 18, while for the Orthodox it is May 22, together with that of her son Constantine the Great.
Born in Antioch of Pisidia in a wealthy pagan family, very probably she embraced the Christian faith through the good example of her nanny and decided to lead a celibate life offering her virginity to God. Disowned by her father and denounced as a Christian by Olybrius whose offer to have her as his wife she declined firmly, Margaret was beheaded during the persecution of Diocletian. She is commemorated on July 17.