Basilica of St. John, Izmir Province, Turkey

The Basilica of St John is a 6th century ruin built at the base of Ayasuluk Hill in Izmir province, Turkey. The site was chosen as it was believed to be the burial place of the Apostle John and had been a place of worship since the early days of Christianity. It was built under the direction of Justinian I also known as Justinian the Great who was Eastern Roman Emperor from 527 to 565AD and replaced an earlier 2nd century church. In the second half of the first century there was rampant persecution and execution of early Christians, and according to tradition John took the Mother Mary to Ephesus, where she lived out her days, however he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Later John was pardoned by the Emperor Nerva and returned to Ephesus. The 6th century Roman historian Procopius wrote, “There chanced to be a certain place before the city of  Ephesus, lying on a steep slope hilly and bare of soil and incapable of producing crops, even should one attempt to cultivate them, but altogether hard and rough. On that site the natives had set up a church in early times to the Apostle John; this Apostle has been named “the Theologian,” because the nature of God was described by him in a manner beyond the unaided power of man. This church, which was small and in a ruined condition because of its great age, the Emperor Justinian tore down to the ground and replaced by a church so large and beautiful, that, to speak briefly, it resembles very closely in all respects, and is a rival to, the shrine which is dedicated to all the  Apostles  in the imperial city”

The Basilica was modelled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and was built in the shape of a cross with six domes. The tomb of St John sat under the central dome and was a site of pilgrimage due to it lying on the route to the Holy Land. An old story says that when the Saint’s tomb was opened by Emperor Constantine no relics were found and it was said that this was due to the saints assumption into heaven. A second account claimed that John was sleeping beneath the tombs and his breathing caused a fine ash, called manna, to form on the tomb. On Saint Johns feast day, May 8th, pilgrims gathered to collect the holy manna from the tomb. A 14th century mercenary Ramon Muntaner wrote that he witnessed the ash bubbling up over the tomb, and that the ash could cure fevers and gallstones, could calm a storm if tossed into the sea, and induce birth in a woman when consumed with wine!

The Basilica is said to have been home to a relic of the True Cross which was worn by John, also he Basilica was believed to have housed the original manuscript of the Book of Revelation. In the 7th and 8th centuries massive walls were constructed around the basilica to protect from Arabian attacks. In the 9th century it appears the basilica fell in popularity but its lost to time the reason for this. In the 14th century the chapel was used as a mosque by the Turks but during the same century the Basilica became unsafe due to earthquakes.

A visit to the Basilica of St. John is highly recommended, and as it stands at the base of Selcuk Fortress it can make for a very nice excursion from the city of Kusadasi.

GPS: 37.95229, 27.36809

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