Since the Virgin Mary possessed many of the virtues of Artemis, the most magnificent goddess, the new religion gained popularity in Ephesus and spread quickly. Ephesus became important to Christians since St. Paul, St. John, and the Virgin Mary all lived here. The first church to be dedicated to her was constructed in Ephesus (see Mary Council Church). The Third Ecumenical Council met in the Church of the Virgin Mary in 431. The principles of Christianity were established during this meeting.
Members of the council discussed the thesis that the Virgin Mary is not the mother of Jesus, the son of God, but the mother of Jesus, a mortal.
Virgin Mary was Buried in Ephesus
Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul first proposed this thesis when he was in Antiochia and later defended it vigorously in Istanbul. To prove his point, he claimed the authority of the Apostles for his views. When the thesis created turmoil, Emperor Theodosius himself attended the meeting of the Council in Ephesus. Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople; Cyril, the patriarch of Alexandria; John, the patriarch of Antiocheia; the representatives of Ephesus and the Pope were also present. Two hundred religious authorities discussed the issue. They also recorded for the first time, in the proceedings of the meeting, that the Virgin Mary was buried in Ephesus.
The Basilica of St. John in Ephesus
In the 4th century, a basilica was built at the site of St. John’s grave located on Ayasuluk hill (Ayasuluk Tepesi). Some Ephesians left Ephesus and settled around the basilica since the harbour of Ephesus could no longer be used. When Emperor Justinian built the monumental church at the site of the basilica, almost all of the population of Ephesus moved into the vicinity of the Church of St. John. Don’t forget that you can visit sacred places like the House of The Virgin Mary, the Basilica of St. John, and the Church of Ephesus in our Biblical Ephesus Tour.
In the 7th and 8th centuries, Ephesus, as well as the other cities in southwestern Anatolia, was faced with the attacks of Arabs from the sea and looters from land. The fortress of Ayasuluk was reinforced against these attacks, and a fortification wall was constructed around the church which looked like an outer fortress. The armies of Caliph Suleiman spent the winter of 716 in Ephesus. During the 10th and 11th centuries, Ephesus was renamed Hagios Theologos in honor of St. John.
When Turks came to the area they found a small village, and Caka Bey captured it easily from the Byzantines in 1304. Ibni Batuta who had visited Ayasuluk in the 14th century mentioned that there were Venetian and Genoese consulates and a bishop in this large city.
During the rule of Aydinogullari, Ephesus prospered again. Many mosques, large and small, and baths were constructed in the city, and trade was revitalized. The famous Isa Bey Mosque was built in this period. Ephesus was completely deserted after the early Ottoman period.
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