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Between 49 and 52 AD St. Paul arrives for the first time in Europe. Years before, he had begun his missionary activity in Asia preaching the Word of God. Along with Silas and Timothy, he left Troas to reach Filippi, important Roman political center on the axis of the Egnatian Way. It was the first time the Word of God was heard on European soil and thus the first Christian community was formed in Europe.
The Apostle did not stop long in Filippi: all major cities of Greece, such as Thessaloniki, Athens and Corinth made part of his journey and in all were born communities of Christians to whom later the Saint was addressed through his Epistles, that today make part of the New Testament. These advised the believers on how to behave and to be good Christians, so until nowadays the apostolic texts are a compass of Christian life.
Today, to follow the footsteps of Saint Paul and rebuild his path means not only to discover the many stories told about the passage of the Apostle through Greece, nor to admire the most important monuments associated with His passage, but to try to reconstruct the environment of His times, understand His message and hear again His words.
The ‘Footsteps of Saint Paul’ is a pilgrimage to the places associated with the places where Saint Paul set foot. A pilgrimage that BOREAS suggests under the light of a cultural tour, trying to understand the reason why Saul decided to travel the world and what was the novelty of His message.
Along the tour, we are visiting many archaeological sites, the cities that the Apostle visited, where He preached.
‘When they took the road through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they reached Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews’ Acts 17:1
Upon arrival at Thessaloniki (Salonica) the capital of the modern region of Macedonian, we are visiting the city, founded in 315 BC by King Kasander of Macedonia, brother-in-law of Alexander the Great. The city has known such glory in the Roman period, being under the tetrarchy of Diocletian, one of the four capitals of the Roman empire. Second capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Thessaloniki has been a city of great importance also for the Jews. Among our visits, the important archaeological museum of the city, the Rotunda, roman governor Galerius’ Arch and his Palace. Continue visiting the churches of Hagia Sophia and Acheiropoiitos, Byzantine monuments protected by the UNESCO, and the Roman Forum. Transfer to hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Thessaloniki.
‘We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis,
and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony’ Acts 16:11-12
From Thessaloniki following the course of the Egnatian Way we arrive in Amfipolis, ancient city of great wealth. After visiting the archaeological museum of Amfipolis we head towards the city of Filippi, honored for his outstanding political, economic and commercial importance with the very name of the Macedonian King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. A dream brought Paul from Troas to Neapolis (today Kavala) and then to Filippi. You can still highlight the places mentioned in the the “Acts”. Here the first Christian in Europe, Lidia, whose name remains on the small shrine near the archaeological site was baptized. In the afternoon, we arrive at Kavala. Upon arrival, we take a short city tour through the picturesque old city. Accommodation in the hotel, dinner and overnight stay in Kavala.
An important center of spirituality and art was forming from the 9th century onwards on the Athos peninsula, called the Sacred Mountain. Imperial benefits and financing encouraged the development of this state reserved just for the monks. Today access is forbidden to women, while for pilgrims to visit the state, a special authorization is required. From Thessaloniki, we reach Ouranoupolis, a small port in the Chalkidiki region, and then we embark on a cruise along the western coast of the Athos peninsula, to enjoy the stunning views of the impressive monasteries from the sea. The monasteries of Athos conserve their medieval architectural forms that makes them appear like castles. Return in Ouranoupolis, lunch and time at leisure. Departure for Thessaloniki along the coast of the Chalkidiki. Arrival at Thessaloniki, time at leisure and overnight stay.
‘The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas to Beroea during the night. Upon arrival, they went to the synagogue of the Jews.’ Acts 17:10
Before the passage of Saint Paul, Macedonia has been the land of the Macedonian kings; of a dynasty that with Philip II and his son Alexander has written one of the most glorious pages of world history. From Thessaloniki we arrive at Pella, the capital of the kingdom by time of Alexander. We visit the site and the new archaeological museum. Continue to Aiges (nowadays Vergina), former capital of the kingdom at the foothills of Mount Vermion, where we visit the impressive sepulchral tumulus, tomb of king Philip II, and has been found full of rich offerings and unique decorations! In the afternoon, we arrive in Veria (Beroea), where there still exists the podium, where Saint Paul is said to have spoken to the citizens after being chased by the Thessalonians. Return to Thessaloniki, dinner, time at leisure and overnight stay.
Departure from Thessaloniki for Dion. At the foothills of Mount Olympus, legendary residence of the ancient gods, the holy city of Zeus was built, which bears his name: Dion! Through the beautiful site and the rich findings, we can reconstruct the life of the city in classical and Roman antiquity to the early Byzantine times. Crossing the Valley of Tempi, we leave behind the region of Macedonia and enter Thessaly. At the heart of the Thessalian plain the byzantine monasteries built on top of the impressive rocks of Meteora form one of the most famous and impressive landscapes of Greece. We stop to visit two of the monasteries and to admire the unique landscape. Accommodation in the hotel in Kalambaka, dinner and overnight stay in Kalambaka.
The rocks of Meteora are left behind as we follow the road that crosses the whole plain of Thessaly to reach Delphi, the ancient oracle and center of worship of Apollo. The site is impressive not only for its unquestionable archaeological value, but also because of the enchanting natural scenery. We also visit the important archaeological museum before proceeding to nearby Steiri, to visit the monastery of Hosios Loukas, a masterpiece of Byzantine art, of immense architectural and artistic value. Transfer to the hotel in nearby Arachova, a picturesque town, accommodation, dinner and overnight stay in Arachova.
‘They took him and led him to the Areopagus and said, “May we learn what this new teaching is that you speak of?’ Acts 17:19
Leaving Arachova and Mount Parnassus, we come towards Athens. Upon arrival, we are visiting the Acropolis and the hill of the Areopagus, the place of public assembly of the Athenians, where Saint Paul preached about the Unknown God. We will visit the new Acropolis museum and walk the picturesque alleys of the Plaka, the traditional city centre of Athens, by the Roman forum and the Greek Agora. Time at leisure, transfer to the hotel, accommodation, dinner and overnight stay in Athens.
A taste of the Greek islands! Early in the morning we are transferred to Piraeus for a cruise in the Saronic Gulf. Just a few hours’ sailing from Athens there can be found some of the most beautiful and picturesque islands, like Hydra, where no vehicles can circulate, giving the idea of what these places really used to feel like, Poros and Aegina, famous for the ancient temple of Afea, one of the masterpieces of classical architecture, as well as for its pistachos! In the afternoon return to Piraeus. Transfer to the hotel, dinner and overnight.
‘[…] he left Athens and went to Corinth.
There he met a Jew named Aquila, […] with his wife Priscilla’ Acts, 18:1-2
Leaving Athens, Paul went to Corinth, where he stopped for a few months working alongside Aquila and Priscilla. He used to preach in the Synagogue in front of the locals and managed to create one of the strongest Christian communities before leaving Greece from the small port of Cenchreae. We are visiting the archaeological site of Corinth and the place where the Apostle presented himself in front of the Roman authorities of the city. After Corinth, we pass by the small port of Cenchreae on our way to Epidaurus, where we are visiting the sanctuary of Asclepius, god of medicine. The site is particularly famous for the theatre, where an important international festival of ancient drama is held every summer. From Epidaurus we reach Mycenae, ‘city full of gold’ according to Homer, where we have the chance to meet a wonderful megalithic civilization that left impressive cities and majestic burial mounds. Return to Athens, dinner and overnight stay.
Time at leisure in Athens until departure time in good advance for departure flight. Transfer to Athens international airport and end of services.