Turkey, basilica in Hierapolis at risk of collapse

Ancient basilica in the city of Hierapolis, at risk of collapsing

Several areas of Hierapolis, a World Heritage Site along with Pamukkale, remain closed to tourists due to risk of collapse.

The Basilica Baths of the ancient city of Hierapolis, included along with Pamukkale in the UNESCO World Heritage List, is at risk of collapsing, according to warnings made by professionals from the tourism sector in Turkey.

The building, which is currently covered in scaffolding and surrounded by a fence to prevent tourist access due to risks, urgently needs repair to prevent it from collapsing, says Gazi Murat Şen, a tourism professional who works in the area, who points out that restoration and maintenance work is only carried out for two months a year.

Hierapolis, key to tourism in Pamukkale

As Şen explains, the ruins of Hierapolis -where archaeological excavations have been carried out since 1957- help to increase visits to the famous terraces of Pamukkale, located right at its feet and which receive some 2 million tourists a year. However, the Italian team that is in charge of both excavations and maintenance work on the ruins is not doing enough to preserve the site.

“These excavation and restoration works are carried out by a team of Italian archaeologists. But for the last 10 years the team of archaeologists, who used to work about 6 months a year before, have been leaving Hierapolis after staying for only two months (a year),” says Şen, who calls for an “urgent restoration” of the Basilica.

“Unfortunately, the excavations and restorations that are being carried out are insufficient. Some areas (of Hierapolis) are fenced off to prevent visitors from entering. At this point, the Pamukkale University should be involved in the excavation and restoration work. The university continues excavations and restorations in the ancient city of Laodicea (just a few km from Hierapolis) 12 months a year, and they are making great progress,” he recalls.

Şen insists on the great importance of avoiding the collapse of the Basílica Baths, with 2,800 years of history and where in ancient times, pilgrims came to purify themselves. Its loss, he says, would be a tragedy for Hierapolis, a city founded in the second century B.C. by King Eumenes II of Pergamum in honor of Hiera, queen of the Amazons and wife of Telephus, hero of Pergamum. The basilica gets its name because it was built in the 5th century on top of ancient Roman baths.