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ST JOHN’S BASILICA: Drawing in the Wake of the Gospels


Selçuk is near the Biblical city of Ephesus, about ten minutes by car from the Aegean Sea.  Ephesus was rediscovered in the 19th century and somewhat reconstructed, with ongoing archreology. (Don’t miss the Roman Houses.) It’s big tourist business. It seems like every travel agency pushes Ephesus tourists to stay in nearby Kusadasi, which is great if you like rampant development, traffic, clubs and stores, but I’ll put my money on Selçuk– pronounced SELchuk. It’s got the Selçuk Museum, full of Ephesus, with its statues and gladiator tombstones, its amulets and talking sticks and ivory portraits.

Sheared Dionysius, Selçuk Museum 2019

It’s got storks nesting on a Byzantine aqueduct. It’s got great tribal art stores and hotels. It’s  got St John’s Basilica, and above it the Citadel.

St John’s with Storks, St John’s Basilica, Selçuk 2005
The Great Artemis, Selçuk Museum 2005

And it’s got Female Power. At the edge of town is the Great Temple of Artemis, a swamp the size of a football field, filled with broken marble, where it all began. The Great Temple was burned so long ago that Alexander the Great had it restored. Centuries later it fell in an earthquake. The Goddess Artemis, the Great Mother Goddess of the Near East, is generally accepted as a previous incarnation of  the Blessed Virgin Mary, having much in common with her: powerful purity; attributes in Holy Trinities- three griffins, three bulls, three bees, etc; affinity with nature and birth; affinity with the moon, that ancient source of female power;  powerful, self-sufficient, life-creating sexuality. Priests of both dedicate their sexuality to the Goddess. And of course, physical proximity. The Blessed Virgin Mary lived a few miles away.

Ivory Virgin Mary, NY Metropolitan Museum, 2002

But the overwhelming presence for me on this trip has been St John the Apostle. His huge ruined basilica dominates the town, topped by the Citadel above.

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