A visit to St. John’s Basilica allows a glimpse into the history of this ancient site, built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. It is believed that the church sits on the burial grounds of John the Apostle and was designed in the shape of a cross. At its completion, it was covered by six domes, with many of the walls presumably once covered in frescoes.
As nearby Ephesus began to lose significance, the basilica was converted into a mosque, hit by an earthquake and completely destroyed by a Mongol army in 1402. All that remains today are various bricks and stones alongside the marble columns that once held up the structure, but recent restoration gives visitors the context to visualize and understand its former status and significance.
Many combine their visit with a walk to the nearby Ayasuluk Fortress atop Ayasuluk Hill, where St John is said to have written his gospel. A climb up offers great views of the surrounding area.
The Basilica of St. John is located about two miles from the ancient ruins of Ephesus, and it is within walking distance from the nearby town of Selçuk. The site is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the winter and until 6:30 p.m. in the summer. Admission costs 5 Turkish Lira.