St John's Basilica

St John's Basilica is thought to be built on the site of St
St John's Basilica is thought to be built on the site of St

This great Ephesian church is built over the believed burial site of the St John, the ancient apostle, evangelist and prophet.

Legend has it that St John wrote the Gospel of John in Ephesus, at the request of the other disciples. Later legends maintained that St John was not actually dead, merely sleeping, and that dust could be seen moving above his grave, disturbed by his breathing.

In the fourth century the prophet's grave was marked by a memorial and a small church was built on the site. Two hundred years later, Emperor Justinian built a magnificent church on the site in honour of the saint.

The tomb of St John, which lies under the main central dome, became one of the most sacred sites of the Middle Ages, and thousands of pilgrims from the Middle East and Europe travelled here to show their devotion.

In the fourteenth century, as Ephesus' greatness waned and the area was attacked by Arabs, the basilica fell into disrepair and it was converted into a mosque before being completely destroyed in 1402 by a Mongol army.

Recent restoration, however, allows visitors to fully understand the grandeur and scale of this once spectacular structure. If it was still standing in its glory, St John's Basilica would be the seventh largest cathedral in the world.

The cruciform building is roofed with six enormous domes. The entrance leads you into the basilica through the southern transept. You'll see the brick foundations and marble walls have been partially reconstructed. Recent excavations have revealed a baptistery and a central pool, as well as an attached chapel covered in frescos.

The basilica sits on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill, around three kilometres from Ephesus.

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