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According to the oldest tradition, the city of Ephesus is the place where Saint John the Apostle lived. Book of Revelation which was written by Saint John has kept the letter written to Ephesians until our present time: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write… You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. (Reveletion 2:1-3)
We can say that from the old tradition dating back to the 5th century, they were preserved as dual relics (Saint John’s and Mother Mary’s) in two different churches in Ephesus.
Selçuk, which hosts Basilica of Saint John’s ruins was the most magnificent place of ancient times and the place of pilgrimage for many centuries, can still be visited today.
Saint John presumably died when he was around a hundred years old toward the end of the first century and his grave became a place of prayer and visitation in a short span of time for the Christians in Ephesus. But the persecutions of the time prevented building a chapel on the grave. In the beginning of the fourth century Emperor Constantine’s decree (313) brought freedom for Christianity, thus it became possible for Christians to build their churches.
The large basilica is 110 metres length and 40 metres width and has three naves with columns in two lines (The restorated parts can be seen), its dome has a magnificent apsis (the ruin still exists), it has a baptismal pool that can be seen today, a treasury room for holy objects, a nartex, a large churchyard at the entrance and elegant columns made from marble surrounding the basilica.
As a result of the recent archeological excavations and restorations the remnants of the magnificent basilica which Emperor Justinian had it made in the 6th century is revealed to our eyes.
The second letter which mentions Saint John’s grave in Ephesus (189-199) written to Pope Vittorius by Archbishop of Ephesus Policrates is extremely interesting.(Migne, PG. 20,279).
The excavations carried on during 1926-28 revealed the underground chapel (kripta) and in its center the grave of the Apostle without his body.