One of the oldest and important holy places in Turkey, St Thecla (Greek: Hagia-Thecla; Turkish: Ayatekla) is considered to be Christian pilgrimage site. She is the first female saint.
It is also known as St Mary's place, and located 1.5 km on the south side of Silifke town in south-central Mersin province, on Tasucu Road. The town is a faith center belonging to the Christian era, started in around AC 50. There is an Archeological Museum while further on Hagia-Thecla is the Tomb, and the church of St Thecla, see the photo above, taken during my visit in May 2003. As far as Tasucu, it is a very pelasant resort town with good accomodations, and fine sandy beaches, especially Aphrodite Beach.
Silifke is a little bit inland, on the site of the acropolis of ancient Silifke (formerly called Seleucia) and Goksu (formerly called Calycadnos). There is an old bridge crossing the Goksu River, the theatre and the temple from Roman times are of main interest points.
At the present time the ruins consist a catacomb (an underground pray cave), a necropolis, a cistern and a basilica. It is said that the virgin martyr Hagia-Thecla who escaped from the Roman pressure, then settled in Silifke, and found refuge in this underground cave in Tasucu until she disappeared.
In accordance with the legend and religious history; she influenced by the teachings of Paul of Tarsus, and adopted his doctrines, and became a pioneer missionary. The 17-year-old Thecla dedicates herself to Christianity, and committed herself to religion after the preaches of St Paul in Konya, Yalvac and Cappadocia. However, Paul is turned in, and her father wants to punish her by burning, but a torrent of rain intervenes, a miracle happens, so she is saved. Thecla escapes to Silifke, and lives in this natural underground cave where she continues with her preaching and acting as a healer. It is told that she disappeared again just when she is going to be killed in the cave, and no return back.
Later the catacomb that Hagia-Thecla lived in, was considered hallowed ground after her disappearance, and was used as the secret praying area until Christianity was set free in AC 320. Then Corinthian colomns were put for support, mosaic siding was built inside. At the end of 4th century, the catacomb was then turned into a church that is seen above, as well as a Basilica being built on top.