On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home… (Acts 16:13-15)
According to Luke’s account, Paul shared the Gospel with Lydia, a woman from the city of Thyatira in Asia Province who had relocated to Philippi. She had a business dyeing and selling purple fabrics. The dyeing of fabrics with a purple dye made from the madder root was a major part of the economy in the area of Thyatira, and bringing this industry to Macedonia was probably a lucrative business decision.
Evidence for a group relocating from Thyatira and starting a purple dye business, like Lydia’s, was discovered on a Roman period inscription in Philippi that translates, “the city honored from among the purple dyers, an outstanding citizen, Antiochus the son of Lykus, a native of Thyatira…” Although we don’t know if this Antiochus had any association with Lydia, it demonstrates the historical accuracy of Luke’s account.
Ruins of the “Basilica of Paul,” an incredible Byzantine period church, still survive at Philippi. A mosaic inscription discovered at the site date the church to about 343 AD. The Basilica of Paul was probably established to mark the location of the original church that started meeting in Lydia’s home after her conversion to Christianity.