St John was said to be sleeping beneath his tomb, and his breath caused the dust on it to stir. This dust was said to perform miracles, especially every year on May 8, the all-night Feast of St John. The church called the dust Manna, and sold it to the faithful. For a thousand years, pilgrims came, even St Augustine, leaving with flasks of Manna. It is surely dusty there now, dust blowing into the cracks of the few surviving mosaics and around the shiny modern marble of the monument now over the supposed Tomb.
My own personal non-scholarly feeling on this is that St John was actually buried up on the ancient Ayasuluk mound, but who am I to argue with St Augustine?
St John is credited with an earthquake while imprisoned on Patmos which got him sprung, but the one that demolished St John’s happened in the 1300s. It must have been a lulu. Just look at this!
The earthquake-wrecked temple was further ravaged by Tamerlane’s Mongol army in 1402. In one of the poetic ironies that keep me living in Turkey, the marble of the ruined Temple of Artemis had been pillaged by Justinian’s builders to create St John’s Basilica in the first place, which was in turn pillaged to create Isa Bey Mosque. This is what’s left.
The only one of these not yet to fall to an earthquake is the mosque, which stands squarely among palm trees on a hillside below the two ruined temples. Keep reading…