Site History and Significance
A Symbol of Peaceful Coexistence
Located at the eastern end of Türkiye’s Mediterranean coast, Antakya (known as Antioch in ancient times) has a rich history dating as far back as the sixth century BCE and was a major city under the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. A hub of trade and cultural exchange, the city has long been home to an ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse community comprising Jews, Muslims, and Christians of various denominations. This tradition of harmonious coexistence has earned Antakya the nickname “City of Peace.”
When a series of powerful earthquakes struck Syria and Türkiye in February of 2023, Antakya was among the cities most impacted, with tremendous loss of human life and the destruction of numerous historic sites of local and global significance. Emergency intervention and long-term post-earthquake recovery is urgently needed.
Rising from the Ruins
After the devastating earthquakes, World Monuments Fund (WMF) assembled a scientific consulting team consisting of international and local experts to visit Antakya’s collapsed historic center and conduct structural assessment at selected sites. Among the city’s damaged heritages sites, the team identified the Antioch Greek Orthodox Church (also known as St. Paul’s Church) as a strong candidate for emergency interventions. Located at the heart of Antakya’s commercial district, the church is one of the most well-known buildings in the city and serves as a popular social and cultural hub. Also identified as a priority by the team was Antioch Synagogue, the spiritual center of the city’s remaining Jewish community.
With the support of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), WMF will lead a team of experts in undertaking project planning, documentation, and geotechnical investigations, followed by emergency stabilization at the Antioch Greek Orthodox Church. At Antioch Synagogue, efforts will focus on damaged decorative elements and repairs to the roof. The measures will be designed to prevent further damage or collapse until additional interventions are possible and will serve as a replicable model for post-earthquake response throughout the area.
In addition, in partnership with ICOMOS International and ICORP, WMF plans to conduct a training course in post-earthquake response to provide relevant skills to local professionals and frontline public servants. The training is a key component to building resilience for the future and ensuring there is local competence in emergency assessment, stabilization, and debris clearance.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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WMF’s work at Antakya Earthquake Heritage Sites has been made possible, in part, by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and the U.S. Mission to Türkiye.