Colossae

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Colossae or Colosse (also known as Chonae or Kona; Greek: Κολοσσαί, Χωναί/Χῶναι), was an ancient city of Phrygia, on the Lycus, which is a tributary of the Maeander River. It was situated about 12 miles above Laodicea, and near the great road from Ephesus to the Euphrates. The site, located near the modern town of Honaz in Turkey, has never been excavated.

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Ancient history

In 396 B.C., during the Persian Wars, the satrap Tissaphernes was lured to Colossae and slain by an agent of the party of Cyrus the Younger. Pliny tells that the wool of Colossae gave its name (colossinus) to the colour of the cyclamen flower. During the Hellenistic period, the town was of some mercantile importance, although by the first century it had dwindled greatly in size and significance.

It does not appear that St. Paul had visited this city when he wrote his Epistle to the Colossians there (Col. 1:2, Col. 2:1), since he tells Philemon of his hope to visit it upon being freed from prison (see Philemon 1:22). It seems that Epaphras was the founder of the Colossian church (see Col. 1:7; 4:12).

This town fell into decay (possibly due to an earthquake) and the Byzantine town of Chonæ occupied a site near its ruins. A look at the classical, Byzantine, and otherwise medieval literature mentioning the site reveals a name change for part or all of Colossae to Cona or Chonae. The town was the birthplace of the Byzantine Greek writers Nicetas and Michael Choniates.

Miracle of the Archangel Michael

In Byzantine and Russian art, the theme of the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Chonae (Τὸ ἐν Χωναῖς/Χῶναις Θαῦμα τοῦ Ἀρχαγγέλου Μιχαήλ) is intimately linked with the site. Eastern Orthodox tradition tells that the pagans directed the stream of a river against the sanctuary of St. Michael there to destroy it, but Michael the Archangel appeared and split the rock by lightning to give a new bed to the stream, diverting the flow away from the church and sanctifying forever the waters which came from the gorge. The Orthodox celebrate a feast in commemoration of this event on 6 September. The Monastery of the Miracle (Chudov Monastery) in the Moscow Kremlin, where the Russian Tsars were baptized, was dedicated to the Feast of the Miracle at Kona.

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