|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Address:||Azize Thecla Yeraltı Kilisesi, Yeni, 33900 Silifke/Mersin|
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Azize Thecla Kutsal Alanı (Saint Thecla Sanctuary) or Azize Thecla Yeraltı Kilisesi (Saint Thecla Underground Church) is an underground church below an archaeologic site in the southern outskirts of Silifke city. It is also named Aya Tekla Church with the Greek Aya or Agia for Saint. In Greek it is named Ἁγία Θέκλα (Hagia Thékla) or sometimes in the adapted form Aya Tekla Kilisesi or Aya Tekla Church. According to legend Saint Thecla lived here much of her life in a cave.
Thecla was a young noble woman from from Iconiumlu (Konya).
She sat by her window for three days, listening to Paul the Apostle, his discourse on virginity and other techings.
She espoused the teachings and as a result became estranged to both her fiancé, Thamyris, and her mother.
They became concerned that Thecla would follow Paul's demand "one must fear only one God and live in chastity" and turned to the authorities to punish both Paul and Thecla.
At this time the Christian religion was opressed and illegal in the Roman empire.
Thecla was burned at the stake, but she was miraculously saved by the onset of a storm.
Then she traveled with Paul to Antioch of Pisidia.
After more false trials and more miracles saving her again, she finally came to live in Seleucia Cilicia and lived in a cave there for 72 years.
She became a healer, performed many miracles, but remained constantly persecuted.
Some say she was persecuted because the Christian religion was still forbidden, other say the healers were angry because she was competing with them and had better healing results, and sent assassins to kill her.
As her persecutors were about to get her, she called out to God and a new passage was opened in the cave, and the stones closed behind her.
She vanished and was never seen again.
And there is a different version after which she moved to Maaloula, a village in Syria, from Silifke, and she lived ther in a cave for the rest of her life. The passage and cave still exist in Maaloula and became a very important site for pilgrims.
And there is a completely different version, which tells that she was able to go to Rome and lie down beside Paul's tomb.
The Ayatekla Sk. road leads from the center of Silifke to a hill in the south, which is the place of ancient Seleucia Cilicia. The place is today called Azize Thecla or Meryemlik (Virginity). The whole area is full of ruined walls, the remains of Roman era houses, but in the center are some fragments of a church which still stand, a small piece of the apse. Below this structure is a huge cave which is generally regarded as the home of Thecla, where she lived for 72 years. Obviously the locals prefer this version of the story. The church was once 55 m long and 36 m wide, and was erected on top of the cave after the official acceptance of Christianity in the Roman Empire. But while the church is long gone, the cave is still there, and is the Saint Thecla Underground Church. The underground site is operated and maintained as a historic site by the Silifke Museum. The town also had numerous cisterns, one of them is also open for inspection.