Footsteps of St. Paul… Philippi and Lydia

The Archaeological Site of Philippi is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Monuments and the most important site in the Easter Macedonian region of Greece. 

Philippi was a major city northwest of the nearby island, Thasos. Its original name was Crenides (Κρηνῖδες, Krenides “Fountains”) after its establishment by Thasian colonists in 360/359 BC. However the city was renamed by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. The present municipality, Filippoi, is located near the ruins of the ancient city. 

During his second missionary journey (49 or 50 AD), the Apostle Paul visited and remained in the ancient settlement. Accroding to the Acts of the Apostles and the letter to the Philippians, early Christians concluded St. Paul, accompanied by Silas, Timothy, and most likely Luke, preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi. Remaining in Philippi during the week, St. Paul traveled to a nearby location in search of a synagogue and place of worship, on the weekend. It was during this journey he met and baptized Lydia of Thyatira, the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe. Today, in the very spot St. Paul baptized Christians, beside the river Zygakti, the Baptistery of St Lydia is open and baptisms and weddings are performed there.

The New Testament indicates St. Paul also visited the city on two following journeys. 

The ancient site holds much of the daily life of the its residents. During the time dedicated to experience Philippi and Lydia, our Insiders Tours guide will elaborate on the fortified walls and the Acropolis of Philippi, within which is located a tower dating back to the Byzantine Period, we will walk through the magnificent theatre built in the 4thcentury BC, admire the complex of public buildings which served as an administrative center of the Roman Empire in the agora, a Roman Cistern where Romans imprisoned Apostle Paul, the Octagon, a large temple complex, dedicated to Apostle Paul and three aisled basilicas dating back to 5th – 6th century.

The first church described in the city is a small building that was probably originally a small prayer-house. The remains of the Octagon and Basilica of Paul, identified by a mosaic inscription on the pavement, is dated around 343. Despite Philippi having one of the oldest congregations in Europe, attestation of a bishopric dates only from the 4thcentury. As in other cities, many new ecclesiastical buildings were constructed at this time. Seven different churches were built in Philippi between the mid-4th century and the end of the 6th, some of which competed in size and decoration with the most beautiful buildings in Thessaloniki and Constantinople. 

From the prison St. Paul was held in, to the unearthing of the structures and even the mosaics visible to pilgrims in Philippi, it is a truly emotional and surreal experience, marking the locale as an absolute highlight of the Footsteps of St. Paul Odyssey.