Basilica of Saint John was built in the 6th century AD, under emperor Justinian I, over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. It was modelled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
It is believed that the Apostle John travelled from Jerusalem to the city of Ephesus where he remained for the rest of his life. It was during his time there that Emperor Domitian exiled him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation (the Apocalypse). When Nerva became Emperor John was pardoned and returned to Ephesus, where he lived the remainder of his days.
The basilica was built almost entirely of brick and stones, while the columns would have been made of marble or have been marble plated, to withstand the weight of the domes above. The use of timber-roofed towers that were placed over the bay preceding the chancel and the altar had been adopted as well since the course of the 5th century.
The first building to be built on St. John’s tomb was a mausoleum of sort, which also served as a church. In the 4th century, a basilica was built over it during the reign of Theodosius. Two centuries later, as the site lay in ruins Justinian began his construction of a much grander church. The plan was laid out on the site of Constantine’s Apostolion and would be arranged in a Greek cross pattern.
The most striking feature of the basilica is its massive apse attached to the eastern piers of the crossing with an encircling passage between its two walls which is believed to have been tunnel-vaulted. The land surrounding the church was not very uninhabitable nor could it be used to cultivate anything. To solve this, Justinian had an aqueduct built near the church, which in time, greatly helped the city of Ephesus and provided the surroundings of the church to flourish through the centuries.
THE EXTERIOR - With its resemblance to the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Basilica of St. John also took on the cruciform in its design. The basilica was a domed basilica where the domes were placed over the central crossing, choir, transepts and the nave. Five domes rested on solid piers in the corners of the cross and surmounted the arms and centre crossing. To hold such domes in place, massive marble pillars were built and erected to support the domes. Much like the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Basilica of St. John was based on the concept of multiplying the standard element, using short barrel-vaults to expand the square, domed bay into a cross shape. The cupolas of the church would be entirely covered in mosaics as well. Prior to Theodora's death in 548, Justinian had both her monogram and his placed on the capitals.
The main entrance gate to the basilica was called the “Gate of Persecution” while atrium walls that were built would have surrounded the basilica itself. The walls would have consisted of towers that were either empty or used as bastions.
The north side of the church also had a large octagonal baptistery, resembling that of Saint Mary. Near it was a rectangular room with a marble floor and an apse paved with mosaic. An inscription over the door identified it as the secreton where the bishop would have been when he presided as judge. The inscription also shows that it might have been completed during the time Johannes was bishop, who may have been around during the late 6th century.
THE INTERIOR of the vault within the church was covered in mosaic while the walls and pillars were covered in marble plates and decorated in different colours. The floors were also covered in mosaics. Numerous parts of the Basilica were of different arrangement which gave the impression of a large quantity of beautiful enormous oriental carpets covering the entire church “in a fairy-like manner”. Directly beneath the altar laid a crypt with several rooms and of those, the tomb of St. John itself. On the altar itself, the inscription of the 14th verse of the 132nd Psalm can be read where Saint John states: This is my resting place forever, here will I dwell
The church inside would have also been covered in frescoes. The Ephesus bishop, Hypatius, was known for his advocating in the use of images in the church. After the completion of the St. John's church, the interior was covered by images, representations of saints and scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Paintings would have included those of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead and Christ crowning Justinian and Theodora. Aside from these, other possible epigrams would have appeared inside the church one of which would have been the first book of the Greek Anthology and also paintings that reflect the origins of the church as an imperial commission.
Main Historical Sites & Destinations Around Izmir & Kusadasi
♦ The Archaeological Museum of Izmir exhibits an impressive collection of pre-Roman and Roman artefacts recovered from area
excavations, including Bergama, Iasos, Bayrakli and Izmir's Agora… more
♦ Ephesus Open Air Museum - contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated… more
♦ Ephesus Archaeological Museum was reopened in November 2014 after extensive renovations. It houses finds from the nearby
Ephesus excavation site… more
♦ Basilica of St. John was built in the 6th century AD, under emperor Justinian I, over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. It was
modelled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople… more
♦ Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood 137 m x 69 m with 127 marble pillars each 18 m high. The temple earned the city the title Servant of the Goddess… more
♦ The House of Virgin Mary. Located on the top of Nightingale mountain, the House of the Virgin Mary
Turkish: Meryemana), is located in a nature park between Ephesus and Seljuk, and is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The peaceful site is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, and is visited by many tourists and pilgrims… more
♦ Village of Sirince. Once known as Kirkince, the village was built by the Greeks around 800 years ago and since the population
exchange in 1924 has since been inhabited by Muslims from Thessalonica. Indeed its habitants gave this name on purpose as they did
not want to be bothered by foreigners not to share the beauty of their village.… more
♦ The Site of Ancient Pergamum – City of Science & Satan…? Perched atop a windswept mountain along the Turkish coastline and gazing proudly over the azure Aegean Sea... more
♦ Didyma - Priene - Miletus - the three towns of Priene, Miletus, and Didyma make up part of Ancient Ionia, homeland of many of the ancient world’s greatest artistic and scientific minds, and each endowed with haunting ruins... more
♦ Pamukkale & Ancient Hierapolis. Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain of Curuksu in south-west
Turkey, calcite-laden waters have created an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced
basins given the name of Pamukkale (Cotton Palace)... more
♦ Aphrodisias is one of the oldest sacred sites in Turkey. The site has been sacred since as early as 5.800 BC, when Neolithic farmers
came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops... more