How did a Syriac church in Urfa turn into a Faculty of Theology?

The Syriac Church of Saint Peter Saint Paul in Urfa is now being used as a cultural center by the Eyyubiye Municipality and the headquarters for the Faculty of Theology foundation.

The Church of Saint Peter Saint Paul (Reji) Church in the Elli Sekiz Square in Urfa was built by the Syriac Yaqubi people over the ruins of a 6th century church.

The church was built for the memory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, two of the 12 apostles of Jesus, and was used as a church and a school actively by Syriacs in Urfa until 1924. The last of the Syriacs in Urfa were exiled in 1925. Some of them ended up in Europe, and some in Syria’s Aleppo province, and the Saint Peter Saint Paul Church became defunct as such.


The church was handed over to the Tobacco, Tobacco Products, Salt and Alcohol Works Inc. (TEKEL), and from then on was called the Church of Régie (short for “La Société de la régie co-intéressée des tabacs de l'Empire Ottoman” in original French). The inscribed tombstones removed from the church were sent to the Museum of Urfa.


The Urfa Governorate restored the church in 1998, and with the protocol signed in 2002, the church was handed over to the Eyyubiye Municipality and renamed to “Governor Kemalettin Gazezoğlu Cultural Center”. The only Syriac place of worship in the city was turned into a cultural center for the Eyyubiye Municipality and the Harran University Faculty of Theology Foundation.


Tourists visiting Urfa now want to visit the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church specifically, but the front yard of the building is used as a parking lot, while the courtyard has Quran reading stands.