The intersection point of faith
Ephesus is Turkey’s most significant cultural heritage with over 1.5 million visitors from all over the world every year. This city is where St Paul worked on spreading the word of God, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Roman Emperor Marcus Antonius visited and Virgin Mary and St John spent their final days.
In an area of just ten kilometresquares, one of the world’s seven ancient wonders, Artemis Temple, the holy pilgrimage spot of Christians; House of Virgin Mary, the most glorious ancient city in Anatolia; Ephesus, the tomb and church of Jesus’ apostle St John, the seven sleepers’ cave, and one of the most beautiful Turkish Seljuk architecure examples, Isa Bey Mosque stand, turning this region into a treasure chest of world heritage sites.
The Artemis Temple was dedicated to the mother goddess of Anatolia and it was built in the archaic era with funding from Kroisos by architects Chersiphron, metagenes of Crete and Theodoros. The temple was the most sacred place in its time. For centuries, it was the worship house to pray and protect people from evil as well as the tresure chest of the cult Artemis statue and other riches.
ST JOHN CHURCH AND BASILICA
After the Christian faith was embracd by the Roman Empire, everywhere including Ephesus, churches were built. The third ecumenic council – or the first Ephesus Council- was gathered here inthe 5th century AD. After two centuries, the St John Basislica and its surroundings became a prominent pilgrimage spot.
St. John’s grave is in the St John’s Church located onthe skirts of the castle in the city center. Above the holy grave, monumental structures have been built since 300 AD. The emperor Justinian I, oredered a domed basislica for pilgirmage in the first haf of the 6th century and the place served as an apostolic church since6th and 7th centuries.
ST PAULOS CAVE
St Paul spend three years between 51 AD and 54 Ad here in Ephesus, writing those letters in the Bible that conveys God’s words to diferent nations like Ephesians and Galatians. The cave is on the northern side of Mount Bülbül and has a great reverence in Christian faith. The cave is dug into a solid rock 100 metres high from the ground, consists of a hallway of about 15×2 metres and a chamber, it is located on the south of Serapis Temple. The figures painted on the wall nearthe entrance depicts stories of St Paulos and St. Thekla along with inscriptions of prayers to St Paulos, and a visible prayer that says “Dear God, please help your servant Tmitheos”. Three sides of the chamber inside is embellished with 9 depictions of saints and disciples, three on each wall. There used to be a vaulted little room in the entrance as determined by the ruins. There are about 300 graffitis on the walls that prove that the cave had been visited regularly by history enthusiasts until 1922.
The necropolis is inside a natural cave to the north of Ephesus. The Christian myth about seven sleepers tells us that seven young Christians, accompained by their dogs, hid in this cave from the oppression of pagans in Emperor Decius era, (250-253 AD) and slept for 200 years before they woke up during Emperor 2nd Theodosius’ time (408-450 AD). The names of the seven people were, Maximilian, Lamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysus, Exacustadianus and Antaninus. In the Islamic versions the name of the dog is Kıtmir, the ancestor of all dogs, and is believed that it followed its companions to heaven.
The cave is deemed as holy by both Christians and Muslims.
HOUSE OF VIRGIN MARY
Many Christian historians claim that Jesus commended his mom to his friend and apostle St John, just before he was crucified. After Jesus was raised to heaven, St John, decided that Jerusalem had become too dangerous for Mary, so he took her with him to Ephesus. He was also aiming to spread God’s word in Anatolia. He brought Mary secretly to this little house on the side of Mount Bulbul where she spent the rest of her days in peace.
After the visit of Pope VI Paul in 1967, every year, on 15th August, a great religious mass to honor the holy mother of God’s son, is performed on Mount Bulbul and in the House of Virgin Mary. The place is also deemed holy by the Muslims as Virgin Mary is also mentioned in the Quran as the holy mother of Jesus.
Vatican proclaimed the house as a holy place of pilgrimage in 1961. In 1967, Pope VI Paul, in 1979 Pope II Jean Paul and recently Pope XVI benedict made their pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary House.
TWIN CHURCHES (VIRGIN MARY CHURCH)
The Twin Churches stand across the Byzantium baths in Ephesus and they have a profound place in Christian culture. This is the place where the council of 431 AD was held. In the second century AD, the building was transformed into a Roman basilica and was dedicated to Virgin Mary. In the 3rd council meeting which was held here, Jesus was proclaimed to be the son of God and Virgin Mary.
In the 7th century, a door was opened through the initial church’s abscissa and a second church was built hence is the name Twin Churches. In 1967, Pope VI Paul consecrated the church turning into a holy center.
The mosque was built in 1375 by the orders of Isa Bey, a Seljuk Lord, on the west hill of St John’s Church with its western facade facing the sea.The significance of the mosque is that the sanctuary was widened and closed off by successive double domes. This is the first mosque in Anatolia to have this type of architecture with such a cloister plan. The western entrance of the mosque is magnificent with its crown gate. The western windows are the most embellished ones in the whole building. The significance of these four windows is that they have different style of embellishments as per arc style, color of the stones used and muqarnases but they still have perfect harmony with the building’s facade.