Throughout the year, thousands of Christians of all denominations from all over the world visit the city of Kavala in Greece to celebrate the memory of a woman whose name went down in history as the first European and Greek Christian.
As the first woman to be baptized by the Apostle to the Nations, Saint Paul, when he set foot on European and Greek soil for the first time, responding to the call of a Macedonian man who urged him “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9) to spread the message of the Gospel and the new religion on the old continent.
Lydia or Lydia of Philippi or Lydia the Purple (she was a well-to-do agent of a purple-dye firm) from Thyateira of Asia Minor (much later the church declared her a saint and gave her the title of “Equal to the Apostles”) is the pious woman who, according to the Scriptures, was baptized by Saint Paul the Apostle, together with her family, on the banks of the River Zygaktis. This river was located outside the walls of the famous city of Philippi, which was visited by Paul the Apostle for the first time in the spring of AD 50 accompanied by Silas, Timothy and Luke. Saint Paul paid four visits to Philippi and wrote the Epistle to the Philippians.
A monumental temple
In this place, a few meters from the archeological site of Philippi, at the initiative of the late Metropolitan of Philippi, Neapolis and Thasos, Alexandros, in the early 1970s, the construction of a monumental temple–baptistery began that was meant to become a place of worship for thousands of Christians who flock to it and pray.
This open-air baptistery on the banks of the Zygaktis River has become a place of prayer for Christians around the world, mostly Catholics and Protestants. They pay visits, perform various worship services, pray and praise God who deemed them worthy to visit the second Jordan, as they usually call this place.
The promotion of the baptistery of Saint Lydia is largely due to the late Metropolitan of Philippi, Neapolis and Thasos, Prokopios, who managed to transform it into a world-famous sanctuary during his forty-year tenure.
The late Metropolitan of Philippi, Prokopios, established the group baptisms of adults in the waters of the River Zygaktis and the construction and equipment of the conference center near the baptistery were completed under his archieratical ministry.
The church–baptistery of St. Lydia, 20 km west of the city of Kavala, is a modern monument, an integral part of the rich history of the ancient city of Philippi, which was the first place to hear the preaching of the Gospel by Saint Paul.