The Basilica of St. John was a basilica near Ephesus. It was erected by Justinian I in the 6th century. It stands over the burial chamber of St. John, it is so believed. The lost Church of the Holy apostles was followed as an example in Constantinople. The basilica is located on the slope of Ayasoluk Hill, around the Selcuk Castle, in the center of Selcuk district, Izmir Province, Turkey.
Justinian’s Church for St. John
There is a little infomation about the Basilica of St. John, with the unique source of a description provided from Procopius’ works, a member of Constantinus dynasty. Upon his writing:
“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 John the Apostle; 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 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 İt 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 first building to be built over the tomb of St. John was a mausoleum of sort, which also served as a church. In the Fourth Century, a basilica was built over it during the reign of Theodosius. Two centuries later, Justinian began his construction of a much grander church. Although the construction of this church was under imperial order, Ephesians were the ones who did much of the building. The marble decorations were made in Constantinople and perhaps in Ephesus as well. While much of the capital of the Eastern part of the church was done by local craftsmen instead, following the Constantinopolitan pattern and model. Even after the reign of Justinian, decorations were still added, most notably by Justin II and Tiberius II.
The most striking feature of the Basilica of St. John 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 a vaulted tunnel. An aqueduct was built near the church of St. John by Emperor Justinian, which absolutely helped the city of Ephesus provide the surroundings of the church and flourish through the centuries.
The Basilica of St. John 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. Massive marble pillars were built and erected to support the domes. The cupolas of the the Basilica of St. John was entirely covered in mosaics as well. Both Theodora’s and Justinian’s monograms were placed on the capitals.
The main entrance gate to the Basilica of St. John was called the “Gate of Persecution” surrounding the basilica. There were 20 towers surrounding the wall that were either empty or used as bastions.
There was a large octagonal baptistery in the North and a rectangular room with a marble floor and an apse paved with mosaic near the baptistery. The interior of the vault within the church and the floors were covered in mosaics. Numerous parts of the Basilica of St. John were of different arrangement which gave the impression of a large quantity of beautiful enormous oriental carpets. The church inside would have also been covered in frescoes. Aside from these, other possible epigrams about St. John would have appeared inside the church.
To make it prominent it was raised by two steps. The belief that a healing powder came out of a hole in the burial chamber of St. John made this church one of the most visited places of the Christian world all through the Middle Ages and caused people to come here in searh of recovery from even far away lands. It has been believed that St. John was not dead in, but sleeping beneath his tomb.