A Pilgrimage to the Seven Churches of Revelation

Life in itself is a journey, yet some journeys become very special. The Diocesan Pilgrimage I joined was to the seven churches of Asia Minor in present day Turkey, to whom John wrote the letters in Revelation. This would stand out as a remarkable memory for many more days to come. Led by Bishop Robert Innes and the Chaplain of Izmir James Buxton the pilgrims included clergy, ordinands and lay people from across the diocese of Europe of the Church of England. It was also a multi-cultural group quite in tune with the nature of the Diocese.

Welcoming the group to Izmir Bishop Robert said that a Pilgrimage always reminds us of our spiritual journey. It brings one closer to God and is in most cases with a definite purpose. Travelling with new people it creates relationships and friendships. It takes one out of the daily routine and makes one flexible and adaptable equipping them to live out of the box.

The journey to the sites where the early churches of Asia Minor met and reflecting on their challenges was primarily a sojourn into the footprints that our fore-parents left behind as a legacy of our faith. It was also about the footprints we leave behind in the context in which we are placed and a pointer to the direction the church is going to and course corrections that might be required.

Macid, our professional guide began by reminding that the guide never loses his people, it is the people who lose the guide, a deeply significant statement also on the faith life of Europe. James and Macid explained to us the context in which the early church lived. The unearthing of archaeological remains pointed at the splendour of the Roman empire of the time, the opulence of the imperial cult, the side stories of trade routes, merchant guilds, after parties which were accompanied by the tap and a tickle, the attitudes of ‘its all right’, the tension with the Jews and the rulers and how the context was closely connected to the texts. The archaeological remains also pointed to historical facts connected to the “neokoros”, how grandiose structures were gutted, and new ones built and how the patronage or rage of rulers affected the fortunes of these sites across centuries.

image by Digital Globe / FreeBibleimages.org

The Pilgrimage Plan

The design was to visit the seven sites where the communities of the early church would have met, to look at the letter written to those communities as is mentioned in Revelations and then to travel in time through the archaeological material unearthing key historical facts. We had an interesting structural plan to read each letter looking at the Christ title (how does Christ the author of the letter address himself), Comment on the place, Commendation (good things about the church), Complaint (criticism about the church), Correction (a call to repentance), Consequences (what will happen if there is no course correction) , Crown (what would be the reward) and a Call (Let them who have ears listen).


Ephesus was a major harbour in the Aegean sea. It was a Roman port and a city central to the trade of the times. Reckoned as a UNESCO world heritage site it Is believed Paul did live and preached in this town. This is the town where St. John is believed to have been buried. He is also believed to have stayed with Mary the mother of Jesus in one of the houses in Ephesus which is today a pilgrim centre.


Smyrna was the home of Homer. It had the illustrious Temple of Athena and was a thriving port city. There are several mosques and synagogues. Present day Izmir, it has the Clock tower and a sea front. St. Polycarp was martyred in this city and a picturesque basilica commemorates his memory.


Rome’s provincial capital Pergamos is known for its library of 200,000 volumes and a theatre that seated ten thousand people. Sites to visit include the medical centre of Asclepion, the Altar of Zeus, the temple of Dionysius, the Acropolis, the Necropolis and the Temple of the Trojan


The modern city of Akhisar does have excavated sites of ancient Thyatira. It is the city where Lydia the one who traded in purple clothes had her roots. The place is significant because she lived in Philippi and is believed to be the first convert in Europe.


The capital of the Lydian kingdom, situated atop a plateau and subject to series of foreign conquests Sardis has the temple of Artemis, a gymnasium, a public bath and the largest synagogue outside Palestine.


The archaeological excavations are still going on suggesting that much is either still buried or otherwise destroyed. There is a mosque on the other side mentioning a ruler who was once requested to ground the church. He said- church and the mosque can co-exist. People can decide where to worship and learn to love the other who worship differently,


Laodicea was the capital of Phrygia and had two theatres, a stadium, an aqueduct, about twenty churches from the Byzantine times already uncovered and a grand city plan.

Other places

We also visited Colosse which still is mostly unexcavated. The visit to the place of martyrdom and tomb of St. Philip was special. Visit to the dazzling Calcium cliffs of Pammukale and its hot springs was a special delight,

The worship service at the Anglican Chaplaincy of Izmir dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and at St. Mary Magdalene Bornova and a home hosted dinner were special.


It is not just the places that makes a pilgrimage meaningful but also the people you travel with.  It was an amazing bunch of people from all over Europe. The refrain of gratitude that reverberated was- thanks everyone for being such great fellow pilgrims. Thanks to all for making it such a wonderful and memorable pilgrimage.

Bishop Robert said as we completed the pilgrimage- It was a great joy to share in the Pilgrimage. It was a deeply formative experience and has given each of us some treasured memories.

It will be a good idea to think of a series of Bible Studies on the seven churches in Revelation and I will intentionally leave the deep Biblical discussions to be shared at such a time.

It was a journey worth being part of and thanks to all who made it possible. Next time I preach on Revelation I am sure I will look at the text with new eyes. I have also began to admire the faith of our fore parents much deeper. Being willing to walk to the stakes and say- Eighty six years he held on to me and now I hold on to him as Polycarpus did needs much faith and the church of today primarily need people of such remarkable faith.

Vinod Victor

May 16, 2023

One thought on “A Pilgrimage to the Seven Churches of Revelation

Comments are closed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: