SYRIA: The Virgin & St Thekla in Latakia

SYRIA: The Virgin & St Thekla in Latakia May 15, 2010

This is the eighth in a 15-part series of pics from Syria.

FirstSecondThirdFourthFifthSixthSeventhEighthNinthTenthEleventhTwelfthThirteenthFourteenthFifteenth.


Fr Ibrahim, pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary (which is about 1,300+ years old), takes us to the shrine …


There are many icons, mostly of the Theotokos, found within the little building — which you can only enter sans shoes …


But this one, the dark one beneath the cross, is believed to be “wonder working” — many prayers have been answered after praying before this image of the Theotokos …


Sorry … I never could get a good shot of the icon (this one has been enhanced).


Believe it or not, this is the Protestant church in Latakia.


This blurry pic shows, from a distance, the shrine Church of St Thekla in Latakia, which is built on a tiny piece of land, beneath street level …


A better image of the building as we approach …


We descended the steps to find a service in progress …


A huge image of St Thekla on the outside wall of the church can be seen by passersby. On the other side …


Arrgh!


Oh … it’s just me.


The church is built (a recent construction) over a site that is believed to have been an underground, catacomb, church dedicated to St Thekla. This deep hole may have been used for baptism.


One of the “Latakia Gang”, George, tells of how the locals had often spoken of a place where the martyrs were buried — and an underground church; it was only later, after excavation, that it was discovered here …


This hole, of which there are 13, served as a place of hiding and/or burial …


There is a little shrine to St Thekla by one of the “graves” where people offer prayers.

[“Mar-Taqla’s ruins in Latakia” is mentioned in several 19th and 20th century manuscripts. The region, in north Latakia, is traditionally referred to as “Mar-Taqla” by the locals; attributed to Saint Thekla, a disciple of St Paul, who introduced Christianity to Syria. According to the archeological notes from the excavation: “The burial contains traces of a church by the name of Saint Taqla.”]


As you ascend the steep steps back up to the church, a beautiful icon of the saint appears over the exit.

Most Holy Theotokos & St Thekla, pray to God for us!

Next time: The Castle of Saladin.

Podcast – “The Blindside” (in Syria); Article – Antiochian website

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