Tour Experiences for the 11 Day Biblical Greece Tour (with optional Rome Extension)
October 2-12, 2022 (Oct 12-15 for Rome)
Days 1 & 2 – Sunday-Monday, October 2-3: Depart U.S.A. / Arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece
Our departure day finally came today! God brought together a total of 17 people from all over the country for our “Footsteps of Paul” tour. Days 1 and 2 were primarily travel days as the majority of us flew through Frankfurt (and Munich) to Thessaloniki. Located in northern Greece, this is a large city of 1.3 million people.
When we arrived in Thessaloniki around 5:30 p.m., we gathered our luggage, exchanged some dollars for Euros (about 1 for 1 now), and met Costos (our Greek driver) and Aliki (our Greek guide). Once loaded on the bus, we drove through the heart of the city en route to our hotel. We are here for two nights. We will visit different parts of the city once we begin in earnest our trip tomorrow.
We are all excited to be here in this biblical country of Greece as we follow the mission trips of Paul and understand His ministry in the context of the land and ancient culture.
Day 3 – Tuesday, October 4: Thessaloniki, Amphipolis, Kavala/Neopolis, Philippi
Today was our first full day here in Greece. The weather was perfect, with a cool start in the morning (50s), and partly sunny skies and afternoon highs in the mid 70s. We left the hotel at 8 a.m. after a great breakfast. We read from 1 Thessalonians 3 as we headed to downtown Thessaloniki.
Our first stop in Thessaloniki was to the Roman Forum (marketplace) in the heart of the city. This was the marketplace mentioned in Acts 17 where Paul was. A one block away is the Church of St Demetrius. This was an ancient church dedicated after Demetrius, a martyr who died in 450 AD. Some of the early structures can be seen below the level of this modern Greek Orthodox Church today. From here we drove to the Acropolis for a great view of the city and harbor below. We read from I Thessalonians 4 (about the hope of Christ’s Second Coming). We also remembered certain believers mentioned by name (Aristarchus and Secundus) who were from this city (Acts 20, Romans 16). They served as later companion travelers with Paul.
Amphipolis / Kavala-Neopolis
The drive north along the Aegean Sea to Kavala (or ancient Neopolis) was very scenic. We made a brief stop to see the lion statue of Amphipolis. The city was established in the 4th century BC and was visited by Paul (Acts 16). Driving further north and following a panoramic of the city of Kavala, we descended down to the harbor of the city. Paul sailed into this port following his Macedonian vision at Troas (Acts 16).Today, only the Late Roman aqueduct and the Byzantine fortress can been seen. Outside a Greek Orthodox Church a modern monument is erected honoring Paul’s journey here. We also saw the Late Roman aqueduct nearby.
About a 20 minute drove took us to Philippi. First, we visited the river outside the city. It was somewhere along this river where Lydia (from Thyatira) heard and received the kingdom message of Christ from Paul and Silas (Acts 16). She and her household also received Christ and were baptized. Paul also confronted a pythia, or future teller. She may have been one who gave oracles at Delphi. Following lunch, we finally visited the archaeological site itself. Here we saw the theater, the Late Roman basilicas, the forum (marketplace), and the Praetorium (judgement hall, the most likely place of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment). At the traditional 2nd century AD location for the prison we read from Acts 16 about God’s miraculous intervention on behalf of Paul and Silas. Also, the jailor placed his faith in Christ that night.
To close the day, we drove about 1.5 hours south back to our hotel in Thessaloniki. We enjoyed dinner together followed by a free evening and what we hope will be a good night’s rest to catch up on jet lag.
Day 4 – Wednesday, October 5: Thessalonica, Berea, Vergina, Meteora, Kalambaka
Today was our second full day of the tour. We loaded the bus following breakfast and left the hotel at 7:45. Most of the day was spent driving southward. The day was once again sunny, with perfect temps in the low 70s. We read from Philippians 1 and 4 to begin the day.
Before leaving Thessaloniki, we drove along the shoreline of the city. We made a brief stop by the water front to see the White Tower. This was initially an Ottoman structure dating to the 15th century AD. Here also we saw a modern statute of Alexander the Great.
Driving about 45 minutes south from here, we came to Berea. It is called Verea in Greek. While there is no archaeology here to see dating to the time of Paul, we read the Acts 17 passage in front of a Jewish synagogue that was built in 1850 AD. We then walked to a small modern monument constructed in the heart of this city. We recalled about how the believers here searched the Scriptures diligently. Sopater, a believer from the city of Berea (as well as Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica were new believers who eventually became traveling companions with Paul as well towards the end of his third missionary journey (see Acts 20). God transformed and called others to join Paul in ministry!
About 20 minutes away is Vergina. We first walked to the archaeological ruins of the royal tomb of Philip II and Alexander IV. Discovered in 1977, these tombs were quite impressive! While there are actually four tombs to see here, the tombs of Philip and Alexander IV (or the “Prince”) are amazingly well preserved even after more than 2,300 years! These two tombs were found intact. In the museum we also saw many of the items found in these tombs, including many incredible gold pieces, armory and weaponry of Philip II, among other personal items. In the small town of Vergina we enjoyed a very usual Greek lunch including traditional dishes such as moussaka, lamb, and Greek salad. It was a great meal!
About 1 p.m. following lunch, we continued our scenic drive south to Kalambaka. This is the heart of the country of Greece. We traversed up and over the Pindos mountain range. At about 4 p.m., we arrived to the area of Meteora. Six (6) Greek monasteries are still active here (of a total of 24), the earliest dating back to the early 1,300’s. We entered the monastery of St. Stephen’s. Aliki took us into the chapel area. Monks for 100s of years have dedicated their lives in carefully building these with such precision. The view from the area and these monasteries was stunning. Upon leaving St. Stephen’s, we drove to our hotel in Kalambaka. After checking in, we enjoyed a great buffet dinner once again and a free evening!
Day 5 – Thursday, October 6: Thermopylae, Delphi, Athens
Today we continued our drive towards Athens. Once again, the scenery of the Greek mountains was beautiful. The weather was similar to the past few days, with a cool start, a mix of sun and clouds and a pleasant highs around 70.
After another great breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and began our drive towards Delphi. We read from Ephesians 1 as we started the day. About about two hours into our drive, we stopped by the area of Thermopylae. It was here in 480 BC where King Leonidas, along with 300 Spartan greeks (and 700 Thespian greeks) were defeated by the Persians. These Persians, incidentally, would be defeated in a sea battle at Salamis shortly after). Today, only a monument stands in honor of the courage of these brave greek warriors.
Continuing southward, we drove towards Delphi. Before climbing the final stretch of mountains, we first enjoyed lunch at Itea, a small quaint town along the Ionian (Adriatic) Sea coastline. Following lunch, we arrived in Delphi. Following a classic Greek lunch once again, we arrived at the archaeological site. First, we walked through the museum. Many impressive artifacts are displayed here, including the famous bronze charioteer (dating to 476 BC), and the Gallio Inscription. This was written by a scribe named Claudius who mentions “my friend Gallio the proconsul of Achaia.” Luke mentions him as well as the one who listened to Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:13).
The archaeological site nearby was quite impressive. We ascended through the site, complete with the famous Temple of Apollo, a theater, and a stadium. The Pythian Games were held here in Delphi every four years in honor of Apollo. Paul used the image of “running the race” often (i.e. 1 Corinthians 9, Philippians 3, etc…).
Delphi was known in this classical period of Greece as the place of oracles. The women who shared oracles were call pythia. Acts 16:16 uses the same word. Paul and Silas preached that accepting Christ as spoken in the very Word (e.g. oracle) of God and trusting in God’s Spirit is what gives purpose and direction for our lives! Paul would also say that we are there “temple of God” with God’s Spirit indwelling within us (1 Corinthians 3:16f).
Following the visit of this incredible classic Greek site, we drove to Athens. We arrived about 2.5 hours later. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. We also had to get Covid tested for the cruise that begins tomorrow morning.
Day 6 – Friday, October 7: Start of our 3-night Mediterranean Cruise
Today we set sail on our Aegean & Mediterranean cruise! The skies were once again sunny today, yet with a very strong wind in Athens as boarded the ship. The temps were once again perfect, with highs around 70. It was a great first day of sailing. We read from Ephesians 2 as we left the hotel shortly after 9 a.m.
Port of Athens
Wake-up call was a bit later today (7:00 am). We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the 11th floor of the hotel, giving us an amazing view of the Acropolis and Parthenon. Then we tagged our bags for the cruise boat and loaded the bus for the drive to an outer port of Athens (not the usual port of Piraeus). The drive to the port took about an hour. Thankfully, because of the brand new policy of dropping the vaccination requirement, all 17 of us boarded the ship! Praise God!
Following the standard procedures of boarding the ship, the ship pulled out of the port around 1 p.m. We enjoyed lunch on the ship and the standard life-jacket drill. The rest of the afternoon was a leisurely one as we sailed about 66 miles to our first Greek island. The deep blue waters of the Aegean was beautiful!
We arrive at the island of Mykonos about 6 p.m. We disembarked the ship and then took tender boats towards the main part of the harbor. We then strolled through the maze of walkways and white-washed buildings before arriving at the famous windmill area. We enjoyed the waterfront (called Little Venus) lined with shops and cafes. After time walking around on our own, we returned to the ship for a late dinner. While we sleep tonight we will travel to Kusadasi on the western coastline of Turkey.
Day 7 – Saturday, October 8: Kusadasi, Ephesus, Patmos
Today was another bright sunny day, with blue skies and highs around 75. It was a day of connecting to Paul’s ministry once again (at Ephesus), but also John’s ministry as he authored Revelation (from Patmos).
Following sailing through the night, we arrived at Kusadasi (it means “bird island” in Turkish). Located on the western coastline of Turkey, this port city is a vacation and retirement locations for many Brits and Europeans. Following an early breakfast on the ship, we left the ship and boarded our tour bus shortly after 7 am. We boarded our bus, we met our Turkish guide, Oz. We drove directly to Ephesus.
We arrived in Ephesus at 7:45 a.m. This was a massive port city back in the days of Paul. Today the water’s edge is about 4-5 miles away! Paul spent about three years here during his 3rd mission journey.
Starting from the upper part of the city and walking on the ancient stone pavement towards the port, we past by a vast number of archaeological ruins. This included the odeon (small theater), statues, pillars, arches, inscriptions, public latrenes, and the Celsus Library. Sitting together in the agora, we read from Acts 19 about the dramatic event that took place in the grand theater. It held about 22,000 people! Seeing the city and knowing about the Temple of Artemis (Diana) that once stood here helped us understand the challenges Paul faced in sharing the kingdom message. We also read from Revelation 2 about what John would write about the church established here (e.g. losing one’s ‘first love’…).
On the way back to the ship we made a stop at a local rug shop/store (it’s an unavoidable part of the excursion deal). It was interesting to learn how Turkish rugs are made, whether from cotton, wool, or silk. Shortly after noon we re-boarded the ship and enjoyed lunch and some free time. It was fun being on the deck as the islands past by.
As we set sail out of Kusadasi for the southwest, we past by the narrowest opening, with the coastline of Turkey on our left and the island of Samos on our right. Paul stopped here on this mountainous island at the end of his 3rd mission journey en route back to Jerusalem (Acts 20).
Later in the afternoon we gathered on the top deck as we approached the island of Patmos. This island is another one of the picturesque Greek islands. While imprisoned on this island, the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation from here. To get to the island, we had to use tender boats.
Upon arriving on the island, we enjoyed a guided tour to the Grotto of the Apocalypse (a very traditional stop where John was imprisoned and received his vision). We read from Revelation 4,5 and 19, remembering that Revelation is a victory book written by John who was exiled here, that honors Christ! We also visited a Greek Orthodox monastery located on the high hills. It is called St. John’s and it has been active for a little over 900 years! In the museum here we saw some manuscripts of texts that date back to the 6th century AD! The view from here of the harbor below was incredible.
Back down at the port, we took the tender boats back to the ship. We enjoyed another late dinner, a Greek barbecue on the open deck! Some in the group also enjoyed the Greek show that was offered later. During the night hours while we sleep we sail to the island of Crete.
Day 8 – Sunday, October 9: Heraklion, Crete / Santorini
Today was another perfectly sunny day, with temps once again around 75. The Greek islands are known for its blue skies and beautiful islands. This would include a visit to both Crete and at the end of the day to Greece’s most famous island at the end of the day, Santorini.
Following breakfast, we disembarked the ship at around 7:30 for the first excursion of the day on the island of Crete. After a short ride through the town of Heraklion, we arrived at the Knossos excavations. Here we saw the archaeological discoveries of the Minoan civilization. They were probably one of the forerunners of the Philistines. Some suggest Caphtor (in Jeremiah 47:4, Amos 9:7) is the ancient island of Crete, while they were called the Sea Peoples by the Egyptian Pharoah, Ramses III in the late 13th-12th century BC.
The Minoans date back to about 2,000 BC (about the time of Abraham). Here we saw the restored palace area, with many frescoes and other ruins. Biblically in the New Testament, it was Paul who left Titus here on this island, giving instructions on appointing church leaders in the towns (Titus 1:5ff). Also, Paul himself would have sailed around the lee of Crete (Acts 27:7) on his way to Rome.
Before leaving the island we enjoyed some free time walking around the shops and stores near the modern port. Many bought olive oil (since Crete is well known for having the best!) while others enjoyed the beautiful blue waters down at the port area.
After re-boarding the ship, we enjoyed lunch and some free time before gathering once again on the top deck. The approach into the port of Santorini was incredible. Most of the city is perched high on the edge of this ancient volcano. It most likely erupted around 1550 BC (some suggest 1453 BC) and brought an end to the Minoans living here. After taking our turn taking the tender boats once again in order to get to the port, some took the cable car to the top while others walked up the steep donkey path. It is about a 1,000 foot climb.
The view from the top was breathtaking! No words can adequately describe it! Santorini is the most picturesque islands! From the top, most in the group explored on their own. Some enjoyed dinner on top, with spectacular views of the sunset and the “bowl” of the volcano below (now all water).
We returned back to our tender boats on our own. Once back on board the ship, we set sail back to the Laurion Port of Athens. We anticipate docking tomorrow morning by the time we wake up.
Day 9 – Monday, October 10: Mycenae, Corinth, Athens
Today we disembarked from the cruise ship following breakfast. The procedure went well. We met the smiling faces of Aliki and Costos at the Laurion port of Athens. Again, the weather was perfect, with sunny skies and highs around 75. We read from Ephesians 3 and 1 Corinthians 15 as we left the port.
Directly from the port we drove south to the Peloponnese of Greece. First we stopped at the famous Corinthian Canel. It was built over a 11 year span (1882-1893) and is 3.8 miles long, 85 feet wide, 280 feet deep, with the water level around 26 feet. It is really a quite incredible engineering feat!
We then traveled another 20 minutes to the ancient site of ancient Corinth. We first drove directly up to the Acropolis for a peak of the Temple of Aphrodite and a spectacular view of the plain of Corinth 1800 feet below. The massive walls and gates date from between the the time of the Crusaders, Ottomans, and Venetians.
Descending down to the archaeological site, we first walked down to the area of the theater where we saw the Erastus Inscription (he donated his own money for the public works, see Romans 16:23). Then we saw the museum, with an image of the Menorah and many clay sculptures of the body parts represented (see 1 Corinthians 12), Temple of Apollo (one of 14 total pagan temples), the forum (agora in Greek), and the bema (judgement seat). Paul was here for 1.5 years during his 2nd mission journey. From here he wrote letters to the Thessalonica church. During his brief stay here at the end of his 3rd mission journey, we wrote Romans. It was delivered by Phoebe (Romans 16). We read from Acts 18 about Gallio.
From here we drove about 30 minutes to Mycenae. Much of what we saw dates from 1,350 – 1,200 BC. At the site we saw the famous Lion’s Gate (1,250 BC), the shaft tombs (where over 30 pounds of gold was found in the 1870s excavations), the palace area, and the cistern. We also saw the Bee Hive tomb of King Agamemnon (or the Treasury of Atreus). We enjoyed singing a few worship songs in the tomb.
Leaving Mycenae, we started our way back to our hotel in Athens for a late dinner. But before leaving the area of Corinth we made a brief stop at Cenchreae (Acts 18) on the way. This was the harbor Paul used to sail to Ephesus and eventually back to Caesarea. Here Paul cut his hair because of the Nazarite vow he had made (Numbers 6:18). Phoebe also served the church established here (Romans 16:1).
We arrived back at the hotel in Athens for a late dinner and a free evening.
Day 10 – Tuesday, October 11: Athens, Acropolis, Mars Hill, Plaka, Lycabetus
Our last full day in Greece was another great weather day, with highs around 75 again. We would spend the entire day in Athens, the capital of Greece. We read from 1 Corinthians 3 as we left the hotel at 8 am.
Athens – Acropolis
We drove a short distance to the Acropolis. As we arrived, we began our climb up past the odeon (small theater that held 5,000) and the Temple of Nike, and through the Propylea (“gate-way” marked with huge pillars today). Reaching the top we saw the Erechtheum (a temple built in 421-406 BC honoring Athena, Poseidon, and Erechtheus a local goddess) and the Parthenon (built between 447-432 BC).
Looking down on the top from the Acropolis in all directions we could see the Temple of Zeus, the Agora (the center of economic and public life) the Stoa of Attilos, and Mt. Lycabetus.
Leaving the Acropolis we stood at the base of the Rock of Areopagus (“Mar’s Hill) where Paul delivered his testimony. We read this speech he gave (recorded in Acts 17). In the context of the pagan customs and culture of the day, Paul was quite bold in proclaiming Christ here. Praise God for those who heard and responded to Paul’s message that day!
Leaving this area, we boarded back on the bus and enjoyed a brief city tour of Athens. We Past by the Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, and the old Olympic stadium of Athens (made of all marble and restored for the 1896 Olympic Games).
About noon we said goodbye to Aliki. We enjoyed lunch and some free time in the Plaka, Athen’s marketplace/shopping area. Following this, the rest of the afternoon involved getting to the top of Lycabetus. Ten in the group walked to the top while others took the cable tram. This is the highest hill around Athens. The view was a bit hazy but you can see all of Athens from here, including the Acropolis!
We all returned to the hotel for a leisurely late afternoon until dinner was enjoyed at 7 p.m. Some of us fly home tomorrow morning, while others are flying to Rome for the tour extension.
Day 11 – Wednesday, October 12: Athens, U.S.A. / Rome Extension
Today was a travel day for everyone. Everyone in the group traveled to the Athens Airport. Some flew directly back home while others in the group boarded the plane to Rome. For those doing the three-day extension to Rome, we once again enjoyed great weather. We met our Rome agent (Daniella) at the airport once we landed and secured our luggage.
Shortly after noon we boarded our and drove about 30 minutes to the ancient port of Rome, Ostia Antica. The site was massive, with ruins from the 1st century BC through the Byzantine Period. Among the ruins we saw numerous houses, the theater (built in 12 BC), bathhouses, the Forum (Capitalium), and the Thermopolium. The site is somewhat like Pompeii three hours to the south. We even saw a Menorah here on one of the marbles. It’s very possible that Paul knew this Jewish community here (and perhaps visited this group of Jews?) when he was in Rome.
On the way into Rome, we stopped to walk on the actually Appian Way. Paul would have used this ancient road that dates back to as early as 312 BC. Paul walked 170 miles of this road into Rome, beginning at Puteoli (where his ship landed after the shipwreck at Malta). We read from Acts 29 and passages from Romans (chapters 3, 6, and 10) before we walked back to the bus. From here it took us about 30 minutes to drive to our hotel. We checked in and enjoyed dinner together. We are looking forward to two full days here in Rome!
Day 12 – Thursday, October 13: Rome, Vatican & Sistine Chapel, Lateran Church & Sacred Steps, Spanish Steps
Today was our first full day in Rome. It actually rained this morning (the first time during our trip), but we spent the first four hours inside the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Cathedral. The afternoon had breaks of sun and clouds, with temps around 70.
We left the hotel at 8:00 today. We drove directly to the Vatican where we visited the museum and Sistine Chapel. About 850 people live in the “Vatican” today, the world’s smallest official “state.” Getting into the Vatican with special “VIP” status helped us avoid the hours-long lines. Upon entering, we got our first glimpse of St. Peter’s Church.
Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel
Walking through the museum was packed with people. It was filled with ancient artifacts, tapestries, and maps was breath-taking. Even the ceiling of the hallway is amazing! We even saw the collection of art by Raphael! Finally we arrived at the Sistine Chapel. The uncle of Pope Julius II built it in 1483 when Michelangelo was only five years old. So many of his teachers began painting the images in the chapel. The ceiling was left blue, with golden stars until Michelangelo began his masterwork in 1508. He was 37-38 years old at this time. It took him four years of painting the ceiling. Much later, we also spent another five years to complete the Last Judgment scene on the front wall of the chapel. The chapel is simply stunning! Michelangelo was 89 when he died in 1564. About 35,000 enter the Sistine Chapel every day (note: the photo of the Sistine Chapel is not mine).
St. Peter’s Basilica
Leaving the chapel we entered St. Peter’s Basilica. It is the largest in the world. The original church was built in 319-326 AD, but the present church was built in 1504. It took 120 years to complete! When Michelangelo was 73, he started designing the dome of the church, the largest in the world. As we walked through the church, we saw the famous Pieta sculpture of Mary holding the crucified Jesus. We also saw the remains of a few Popes who earned “sainthood” after their deaths. Leaving the church we entered Vatican Square. It is a large gathering place in front of the church itself.
St. John’s Lateran Church & Sacred Steps
Our last stop of the day was to St. John’s Lateran Church (formerly called Church of our Savior). This was the very first official church, built in 313 AD (St. Peter’s Cathedral was built in 319-326 AD). Up through the 14th century AD, all the Popes lived in the adjacent building next to the church. The church was later redone in the 1500s. The new Pope always comes here and is appointed the Bishop of Rome here. Because of the church being the bishop center, it is viewed as the most sacred of all Catholic Churches around the world. Twenty two Popes are buried here.
Across the street we also briefly visited the Sacred Steps. As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness. It is believed that Helena brought the 28 steps from Jerusalem. The steps are to believed to be used by Jesus went brought before Pontius Pilate.
We returned back to our hotel at about 4 p.m. Five in the group went on an optional walk to the Spanish Steps. There are about 136 steps. We returned for another quite eloquent dinner served Italian style. It was a great first day here in Rome!
Day 13 – Friday, October 14: Colosseum, Roman Forum, St. Peter’s in Chains, Mamertine Prison, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls, Catacombs
Today was our second and last day in Rome. This city is very large, with 6 million residents (3 million living inside the city limits, with 3 million living around the city). This means a LOT of traffic, everywhere! There are a total of 453 churches in Rome. The ancient Roman walls that we saw from time to time throughout each day (dating from 269-275 AD) are 19 kilometers (13-14 miles) long. 380 towers were incorporated into the wall as well as 14 gates. The weather was very nice today after yesterday’s morning rain, with full sun and highs in the mid 70s.
We began the day with the Colosseum. We drove past the Circus Maximus (a stadium that held 300,000 people) before arriving to stand in line for this massive amphitheater built between 72-90 AD. The first 8 years was just to prepare the foundation and lower levels. Over 300 tons of iron (e.g. pins) was used to hold the structure together. The Colosseum held up to 70,000 people. Gladiators fought here for 450 years against both animals and other men. By last use of the Colosseum was 523 AD. Later, two earthquakes destroyed about half of this structure. Going inside the Colosseum was amazing! We first went to the top for a panoramic view. We then descended down to the lower level. 54 lifts or trap doors were used to lift both animals and gladiators.
Constantine’s & Titus’ Arch
Exiting the Colosseum we next past by Constantine’s Arch. This was built in 315. It is one of seven arches still standing today. As we walked towards the Forum, we passed by Titus’ Arch was built shortly after the Jerusalem campaign in 70 AD. Inside of this are the Menorah can still be seen.
From Titus’ Arch, we entered the Roman Forum. We past by all kinds of Roman structures, pillars, and the open area of this ancient marketplace. Standing by the Basilica of Julia and the Temple of Castor & Pollux, we read from Acts 28 (28:11 mentions these two “twin gods” of Jupiter, gods of protection for sea-farers and warriors), and Romans 15 and 16. Flowing Paul’s successful ministry here in Rome (and probably in Spain), he comes back to Rome where he is tried most likely in the Basilica of Julia. He was beheaded in 67 AD. God used him in amazing ways to spread the Gospel to so many! It was special to stand nearby where he was condemned to death. He gave his life for the cause of Christ!
St. Peter in Chains
Near the Roman Forum is a church that traditionally locates where Peter was held in chains here. 1 Peter 5:13 suggests that Peter was in Rome. The 1st century chains that are on display in the front of the church were given to the Pope in the 5th century. This began the legend. Also inside the church, a Moses sculpture by Michaelangelo is displayed. He began this project when he was 30 years ago.
At the north end of the Forum we included an extra stop to the Mamertine Prison. Here stands a Catholic Church called St. Joseph’s of the Carpenters. Beneath this structure are the remains of the traditional site of the imprisonments of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter in Rome. This prison was simply known as “Carcer” (“prison”) in Paul’s day. The term “Mamertine” was attributed to the prison in the Medieval Period.
The Carcer was the only prison in ancient Rome. When someone was sentenced to death, they were brought here to await execution. Below the upper chamber is a circular room called the Tullianum. Prisoners entered the Tullianum from the Carcer by being lowered through a hole in the Carcer’s floor. According to tradition, the apostle Peter caused the well-water to spring up so that he might baptize his jailors. It is debated, however, whether Peter was actually incarcerated here.
The state rarely incarcerated common criminals, but kept the Mamertine Prison for political prisoners doomed for execution by being thrown off the Tarpeian Rock. Enemies of the State were often strangled in the Tullianum. A door in the chamber offered access to the Cloaca Maxima (Rome’s sewer system), and it is thought that the bodies of executed prisoners may have been carried out through there Because of its association with Paul and Peter, the Mamertine Prison has been used as a place of worship since roughly the 7th century. (note: the above information about the prison is credited to Dr. Todd Bolen).
Trevi Fountain / Pantheon
We walked past the Victorinio Emmanuel Venezia monument (built between 1871-1911) to get to the famous Trevi Fountain. We enjoyed some good Italian gelato here as we took 30 minutes to rest from our morning walking. The place was packed with people. We then walked another 10 minutes to get to the Pantheon, the largest dome built in the ancient world. Most confidently date the building to the Emperor Hadrian’s reign and describe its purpose as a temple to all the gods. Nearby the Justice building we met our bus and drove out of the ancient city.
St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls
From here we visited St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls. The church originally goes back to 330 AD. It was rebuilt many times. A fire in 1823 destroyed it, but it was rebuilt shortly later in 1827. By tradition, Paul was buried here. The traditional hand cuffs that bound Paul are also displayed here. 267 Popes are also displayed here all around the sanctuary. The church is owned and maintained by Vatican City.
Leaving the Forum area, we past by the Piazza Venezia, dominated by the imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuel II. Next, we drove straight to the St. Sebastian Catacombs. This is one of the three largest underground cemeteries in Rome (a total of 64 catacombs have been discovered). This one was the a Christian graveyard and it dates from about 150-450 AD. This catacombs here consist of 3 labyrinth layers of graves spanning about 7 miles. It is believed that there were 100,000 tombs here. It was incredible to see so many of them. It was a cool 17 degrees Celsius down below.
We ended the day by being driven back to the hotel for one last great dinner. After dinner, some in the group walked back down to the area of the Forum and Colosseum to see it lit up at night! It has been a wonderful trip and extension, following in the footsteps of Paul. We all fly home tomorrow.
Day 14 – Saturday, October 15: Rome, Arrive in USA.
We woke up at 5:30 to get our flights (we are using two airlines) back to the States. We read from the last few verses of Romans 16 to start the morning. It was a great trip in retracing the footsteps of Paul. God gathered a wonderful group of believers from all over the country as well. We became dear friends and one happy traveling family!
Mars Hill – Athens
Dr. John shares a live devotional video from Mars Hill. Also called the Rock of Areopagus, this was where Paul shared his bold testimony among the philosophers of the day (Acts 17). Mars Hill is located just below the Acropolis of Athens.