St. John, who converted from Judaism to Christianity, is one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. Three out of the four Bibles were written in Anatolia. According to some, St. John wrote one of them in Rumkale, while according to others, he wrote them in Izmir’s Selcuk district when he was 90. He died at the age of 100 there and was buried in Ayasuluk hill.
Later on, seven churches were built on behalf of him. All of them are in Anatolia. The most famous one is in Selcuk, where he is buried.
Every year nearly 1 million pilgrims visit this church, which is the second most visited place after Ephesus, an important religious center for Christians.
As it is known, Virgin Mary was buried in Bulbul Mount, known as Panaya Kapulu by Christians, in Selcuk.
A simple mausoleum was built for St. John, buried in the southern slope of the Ayasuluk Hill, as well as a timber-roofed basilica from the 5th century.
When the basilica was damaged by earthquakes in the 6th century, Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora (527-565) built the new cross-planned and domed basilica.
The castle, located on top of the Ayasuluk Hill, is like the crown of Selcuk.
When the people of Ephesus moved to Ayasuluk in the 7th century, the basilica took the place of the former Eparchy church.
When Turks captured Ephesus in 1304, the name and the capital of the Aydinogullari Beylic became Ayasuluk after 1350. During this period, the Isabey Mosque, baths, tombs, madrasahs and hans were built.
The Ottomans took possession of Ayasuluk in 1430. The Bey Mansion, which was built by İsa Bey in the Aydinogullari period in the castle, was used by Ottoman commanders. The structure, which is also known as Dizdar Mansion, served until the 1670s.
Excavations initiated by Austrian archaeologists in Ephesus and the Artemis Temple along with the Izmir-Aydİn highway that came into service in 1860 revived the city. This is understood from the fact that English and Italian travelers were depicted in various Ayasuluk gravures.
A decision was made in 2015 to restore the Ayasuluk Hill and the Gate of Persecution, which is the main entrance of the St. John Church. Christians called the gate “persecution” as they believed the reliefs on the gate depict the persecution of the Romans to Christians.
During the Greek occupation of Izmir between 1920 and 1922, Greek archaeologist G. A. Sotiou excavated the burial field of St. John and found it empty. But his relics were transferred to the Havariun Church in Istanbul in the 6th century.