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ALAŞEHİR

One of the Seven Churches                         Population:

alase1Old name: Philadelphia

Market day: Tuesday

Alaşehir is not a town that sees many tourists. That's partly because its inland location on the road between Manisa and Denizli puts it too far out of the way for those on tight itineraries and partly because it lacks the sort of blockbuster attractions that pull the crowds in.

But for those with an interest in church history, Philadelphia was one of the Seven Churches mentioned in Revelations and you can still visit the ruins of the 6th-century church of St John in the town centre. Obviously this is of too late a date to be the church in the Bible.

Clearly there was once an enormous church on the site but today nothing much survives beyond three enormous chunks of wall that probably supported a dome and a few foundation stones. In places its possible to make out slight traces of battered fresco still just about clinging to the columns. 

Scattered about the pleasant small rose garden are old Christian gravestones of a variety of dates as well as pieces of Roman masonry including a few large stone sarcophagi. 

If you stroll around town you may come across a lengthy stretch of Byzantine wall that still survives amid a residential and commercial area. You can even make out the remains of one ancient gate although all its facing stones have been removed. To find the wall from the central square find the road that runs in front of the marketplace and look out carefully on the righthand side of the street - it's easiest to find the wall after you reach the most exposed stretch after which you can trace it back through the back streets and car parks. alase2

Up on Toptepe hill there are a few more pieces of masonry left over from the days of Philadelphia. More lie in the courtyard of the Kütük Minare Cami at the foot of the hill.

The Şeyh Sinan Cami dates back to 1450; the attractive tomb of the founder sits in the courtyard. It's a shame that the early Ottoman architecture has been rather crudely restored.

In 2015 work was nearing completion on a restoration/rebuilding of the 16th-century Kurşunlu Han. It will almost certainly house craftshops and a cafe just down the road from the ruins of St John's church eventually.

Nearby a lovely early 20th-century building has been brought back to life as a partly hexagonal library with lovely original wooden ceilings. 

Eating

If you end up lingering here it's worth knowing that there is a restaurant on the summit of Toptepe with fine views back over the town. 

Sleeping

Pia Taşlıgere

Designed to resemble an Ottoman mahalle (neighbourhood) set round a large garden, this modern hotel is just off the main road south of Alaşehir rather than in the town itself. Rooms are large, stylish and modern, an unexpected treat in such an unlikely location. The clientele is largely made up of business travellers.

Tel: 0236-654 8030, www.tasligere.com/piatr/, Badınca Köyü Taşlıkahve Mevkii

Şahin Otel. Tel: 0236-654 1000, Fevzipaşa Caddesi No. 1/A

Transport info

The nearest airports are at İzmir and Denizli, neither of them particularly close.

There are buses from İzmir, Manisa, Denizli and Salihli (30km) - the latter is a timetabled service rather than hourly.

Minibuses also run from Salihli to Alaşehir along a pleasant country road through Kemaliye. Check whether the service is direct though as some minibuses will leave you hanging about for ages for a "connection" in Kemaliye. 

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