After leaving the spectacular ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus (previous story), our guided tour took us to the Basilica of St. John the Apostle about two miles away. According to Christian tradition, in the second half of the first century St. John took The Mother Mary and came to Ephesus where he wrote his Gospel. The Apostle died in the region around Ephesus in 100 AD and was buried in the southern slope of Ayasoluk Hill. St. John was the writer of the Fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation.
A small chapel was constructed over the grave in the 4th century and was expanded into a basilica in the 6th century under the reign of Emperor Justinian, who believed that a tomb dating from the 300’s was John’s, so he built a church above it, which was modeled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
Located in the town of Selcuk a few miles from Ephesus, the remains of the basilica overlook the remnants of the Temple of Artemis, creating a matched set of two great religious landmarks now fallen into ruin.

The basilica was converted into a mosque in the 14th century and later destroyed by invading Mongol armies. A massive earthquake later in the same century was the final ending for the once massive structure. Restoration is now in progress.

We entered through what is called the “Gate of Persecution”. The Gate used to have a frieze of Odysseus discovering Achilles, and when it was mistakenly thought to depict the persecution of Christians, the gate acquired its name.

 The walls around St. John’s were reinforced, using marble blocks from the site of Ephesus. Ayasoluk Hill dominates the surrounding area, with several historical buildings on its slopes, including the Isa Bey Mosque built by the Seljuk Turks in 1375, and the Grand Fortress. Also visible from this spot was the Temple of Artemis remains.


Looking down on The Isa Bey Mosque (on the left) and the Selcuk Grand Fortress which rises up behind the Basilica. Columns and stones from the ruins of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis were incorporated into the building of the Mosque. The fortress is situated on the highest point of the hill to the north of St. John’s Church. The walls which are seen today belong to the Byzantine period. Built with stones, bricks and mortar, the walls are reinforced by 15 towers which are still intact today.

The restoration of the basilica has begun as seen in the photo on the right.

If it were still standing it would still be the 7th largest Christian church in the world,

Model of how the Basilica of St. John once looked
( Photo Creative Commons License Yulia)

The monumental basilica was in the shape of a cross and was covered with six domes. Its construction, being of stone and brick, is an extremely rare find among the architecture of its time. Construction began in about 536 and was dedicated on the eve of the feast day of the Princes of the Apostles on June 28th 550 and completed in 565.


The Baptistery

The octagonal baptistery building with a cross-shaped immersion font, was in In the center of the building. From its size, it is clear that adult baptisms were practiced here. Two sets of steps led down to the middle of the pool and water was guided in through pipes that were laid under the floor.

Looking up at one of the columns and the Maltese Cross and ruins inside the church with the Maltese Cross Symbol. The design was Influenced by The Knights Hospitaller, or the Knights of St. John and were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders during the Middle Ages.


Inside the Ruins

Mosaic Floors

Artifacts left behind


Two Frescoes found on the interior walls (these were unprotected)

The traditional tomb of St. John, located under the main central dome, elevated this site to one of the most sacred sites in the Middle Ages and thousands made pilgrimage here. Christian tradition says John lived to an old age and died a natural death at Ephesus about 100 AD. He was the last survivor of the apostolic group.

When we walked this quiet and serene site, the guide explained that during John’s lifetime, this was the spot where he liked to write. Before his death, he asked his followers to bury him in the place that meant so much to him.

Raised by two steps and covered with marble, the tomb of St John was under the central dome, that was once carried by the four columns at the corners. The columns in the courtyard reveals the monograms of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora.




A tablet commemorates a visit by Pope Paul VI on June 26th 1967. Having the Pope’s arrival to the ruins, made the site a popular one.

When I learned that the Temple of Artemis was a stop on this tour, I was very excited. I knew it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but …….. I should have done more research before leaving home. When the guide pointed out the remains of the Temple, I was dumbstruck. There was Nothing To See except a few scattered boulders and stones. One large column was constructed from these boulders to mark the spot where the temple once stood. I was so disappointed!

Archeologists have found remains of previous temples there that date back as far as the Bronze Age. In 550 BC the Cretans began reconstruction of the Temple which took about 120 years to complete.


Its main purpose was to be a worship center for the moon goddess, Artemis, who was the symbol of abundance, hunting and wild life. It was also used as a marketplace. 127 huge columns surrounded the temple were brilliantly decorated.

In the middle of the temple stood a statue of the goddess which was a sight to behold because it was made of marble and decorated with ivory and gold. Hundreds of people flocked to the temple every year to see it, including merchants, common people, artisans, and kings. It was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401 AD.


A model of the Temple and statue in the The Ephesus Archaeological Museum

Most of the physical description and art within the Temple of Artemis comes from Pliny, a traveler who travelled through Anatolia, Greece and Northern Africa in the 3rd century BC. He wrote a book describing the seven largest buildings of the ancient world and named them as the “7 wonders of the ancient world”. Pliny described the temple as 377 feet long and 180 feet wide. As large as a soccer stadium and made almost entirely of marble. The Temple consisted of 127 Ionic-styled columns, each 60 feet in height.

This area in Turkey holds many treasures and ruins of the world and is definitely a place that must be visited to satisfy one’s hunger for history. Be sure to make time to visit the various museums which hold so many of the treasures uncovered during excavation.


If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.
~Pearl Buck


@ Patty