The ancient city of Ephesus not only has impressive ruins, but also important sites for Christians and one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Ephesus is a remarkable attraction in western Turkey, near the Aegean Sea. It was an important Attic and Ionian Greek city that flourished in Roman times. Today it has some of the best preserved ancient ruins of any ancient city in the Mediterranean. But there is much more than the impressive city of Ephesus.
Attractions to see here include the House of the Virgin Mary, St. John’s Basilica (and adjacent fortress), the ruins of the city of Ephesus, and the remains of the Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of ‘Old World.
The ruins of the city of Ephesus
Ephesus was once a great city and was one of the 12 cities of the Ionian League, in 129 BC it came under the control of the Roman Republic. In the book of Revelation, it was one of the seven churches in Asia that St. John wrote to, and it is believed that St. John wrote the Gospel of St. John there. Saint Paul stayed, preached, was assailed there. Later he wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians at the church there.
Today’s ruins are impressive, and many travel advertisements for Turkey and postcards feature the partially reconstructed Library of Celsus. The amphitheater is partially restored and the remarkable autistic can be heard as people chat quietly among themselves through the theatre.
- Amphitheater: Once able to hold 24,000 spectators
The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD, but was later rebuilt but then declined as its port slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River. In 614 it was partially destroyed by an earthquake.
Today, it is easily one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations.
- Listed: The ruins of Ephesus are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Temple of Artemis
Only about 4 kilometers from the ruins of Ephesus is what remains of the Temple of Artemis.
- Diana: The associated Roman goddess was Diana, and is translated that way in the KJV version of the Bible in Acts.
The Temple of Artemis was dedicated to an ancient and local form of the Goddess Artemis and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. By 401 AD it had been destroyed or ruined and today only some of the foundations and a few fragments remain at the site today.
- 7 Wonders: The Temple of Artemis was one of the 7 wonders of the world
Some of the pillar fragments were stacked into a single towering column. Even this massive column is four meters shorter than the columns would have been. It’s not much but enough to give an idea of the size of what the temple once boasted.
St. John’s Basilica
It was once a massive basilica built by Justinian I in the 6th century (Justinian I also built the breathtaking Hagia Sophia which really needs to be visited). St. John had a close connection to the city of Ephesus and some believe he wrote the Gospel of John from there.
- St-Jean: Said to be buried there
According to tradition, he died and was buried there. The basilica was built over what was believed to be the burial place of the Apostle John.
- Modeled: The basilica was modeled on the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople
Today only the ruins of the once impressive basilica remain, but the ruins themselves are still very impressive. Another apostle, Saint Philip, is buried in Heiroplos a few hours away – his church has also since been destroyed.
House of the Virgin Mary
According to the New Testament (John 19:26-27), Jesus on the cross told John to take care of his mother, Mary. Tradition has it that Mary followed John the Apostle to Ephesus and lived and died there. Today there is the House of the Virgin Mary (also called Meryemana Evi) on what is believed to be her burial place, a 15-minute drive from the main ruins of Ephesus.
- Tradition: According to Tradition, Mary Mother of Jesus followed John the Apostle from Ephesus
The small structure is a Catholic shrine and is very small. The sanctuary is set in a beautiful grove filled with olive trees and taller shade trees that cool the air. A modern wind farm can be seen as a backdrop dominating the hills behind the sanctuary.
The grove is one of peace, serenity and relaxation. There are a number of teahouses and restaurants at the entrance.
The Catholic Church has never spoken in favor or against the authenticity of the shrine, the shrine has received several papal apostolic blessings and even visits.
- Papal visits: Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI
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