The Central and Southern Aegean Coast Sights

St. John Basilica & Fortress of Ayasuluk

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 07/06/2016

Fodor's Review

Step through the impressive, pre-Justinianic marble portal (its huge blocks likely plundered from the nearby Temple of Artemis) to approach the basilica, which sits below the crenellated walls of the Fortress of Ayasuluk, likely covering the site of the most ancient settlement in Selçuk. In the 6th century AD, after earthquakes destroyed the modest church believed to mark the grave of St. John the Evangelist, Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora commanded that a grand marble basilica be erected over the site on Ayasuluk Hill, its eleven domes grand enough to rival the imperial pair's other legendary building project, Hagia Sophia. The basilica's barrel-vaulted roof collapsed after another long-ago earthquake, but the ruined church is still an incredibly evocative sight, with its labyrinth of halls and marble courtyards, and occasional mosaic fragments. Both the basilica and the newly reopened fortress, the work of Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman builders, provide stunning

views of the Plain of Ephesus and the İsa Bey Mosque. Come by in the early morning or late afternoon when there are rarely crowds; if arriving later in the day, be sure to visit the fortress first–-it closes earlier than the basilica area. Unscrupulous dealers in dubious "antiquities" cluster around the gates; they should be ignored.

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Sight Information


Selçuk, Izmir, 35920, Turkey

Sight Details:

  • 10 TL
  • Daily: 8–7 in summer (last entrance 6:30; fortress closes at 5), 8–5 in winter (last entrance 4:30, fortress closes at 4)

Published 07/06/2016


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