Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

In the Steps of St Paul

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 1st April, 2011

I have always found St Paul to be a most antipathetic character — enough to put anyone off Christianity for life. He might have had a conversion on the road to Damascus, but it wasn’t a conversion half enough, as far as I’m concerned. Of course, that was nearly 2,000 years ago and mores change. Anyway, today, out of professional obligation, I made a trip to the putative Well and Church of St Paul in the south-east Turkish town of Tarsus, whence he hailed. The Church is much more modern, though charmingly Ottoman. The Christian congregation of Tarsus long since departed, but there are guardians and an extraordinary long-haired cat who comes bounding up to visitors to be stroked. In her, if it is a her, exists a spirit more loving and forgiving than the rather severe Paul. Tarsus itself is rather charming, with extensive Roman vestiges — the most important of which is the exposed marble roadway — as well as a lovely little hamam (baths) and some nice, modest mosques. There is a small area of preserved Ottoman houses, thank God saved from the onrush of modernisation, which means Tarsus is a place well worth a linger — and not only for its biblical connections.

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