Suitcase and World: Selçuk. Day 1 - St. John's Basilica.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Selçuk. Day 1 - St. John's Basilica.

ei and I arrived into Selçuk late morning. After getting ourselves settled into Homeros Pension, we headed out to explore the town. We discovered that St. John's Basilica was less than a 10 minute walk away from the pension and that's where we headed after grabbing a quick lunch of soup and lamacun ("lah-c-ma-june).

The church sits is on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill just below the fortress.

Legend is that St. John the Evangelist wrote his gospel in Ephesus at the request of other disciples and was buried on Ayasoluk Hill. St. John's grave was marked by a memorial and enclosed by a church of modest proportions in the 4th century. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD) believed that a tomb believed to be that of John's so he built the Byzantine Church of St. John in dedication of the saint.

With word that it marked the spot where St. John was buried, it did not take long for the basilica to become one of the most sacred sites in the Middle Ages. Thousands of devotees made pilgrimages here. But with the decline in importance of Ephesus and after Arab raids, the basilica fell into ruins until the Seljuk Aydinoglu clan converted it into a mosque in 1330. The building was then completely destroyed in 1402 by Tamerlane's Mongol army. The ruined church was thereafter pillaged for building materials. Today, you can see a model of what archeologists to have looked like in its heyday.

Several of the brick foundations and marble walls have been partially reconstructed. Wandering through them I was trying to imagine the cruciform layout of the church.

The remains of a column capital mark what is believed to be the actual location of the tomb of St. John.

Walking around the perimeter of the grounds, I could see the town of Selçuk and the double domes of the Isa Bey Camii.

As we wandered the grounds, we occasionally followed some local who I think was drunk - he was rambling about God only knows what. To avoid him, Lei and I split up - heading in different directions. The "scatter-to-confuse-the-annoying-man" approach :-)

I took off to see more ruins.

....and more ruins.

But after while, one ruin starts to look like another. It was too nice to leave so we decided to just chill out and enjoy the time among the ruins. It was late afternoon. The air was warm and humid. Our bellies were full. I could have napped on forever.

Lost in her own thoughts, Lei was enjoying the view and some quiet downtime.

As mellowed as two people can possibly be, we eventually strolled back to town to do a bit of window shopping before going back to the pension to retire for the evening.

St. John's Basilica was the perfect introductory note for our visit to Selçuk. Tomorrow, we will finally get to visit the ruins at Ephesus and I can't wait!!