The Citadel and St Johns Longshot 72 ©2012 by Trici Venola.
The Citadel and St John’s Longshot ©2012 by Trici Venola.

Sweeping up the hill, at the center of the drawing above, is the ruin of St John’s Basilica. At the right is Ayasuluk, a  6000-year-old Paleolithic hilltop settlement. Here’s a Medieval rendition:

Medieval Drawing of Ayasuluk. Photo © 2012 Trici Venola. Subsequent civilizations have left artifacts still being excavated: chapels, baths, tombs. The sixth-century Byzantine castle is built on Hitttite bones. Ariel View Google Maps

The castle walls and fifteen towers were built from stones taken from buildings in Rome. Aerial photos and old drawings of the Citadel abound. Here’s a photo of that little central chapel from a sign at St John’s:

Citadel Chapel Sign and St John's Rubble © 2012 Trici Venola.

There must have been a wooden settlement inside the castle walls since all that’s left is what looks to be a 5th-century Byzantine chapel with an Ottoman minaret next to it, and nearby a mounded ruined hamam. On this hilltop, St John is said to have written his Gospel. Here’s how it looks today, from a stairway at the back of the basilica. A staircase entire, all by itself, with one turn in the stairs, roofless and leading up to nowhere. I spent a few hours in this wedge of deep shadow set in the dead white heat of late summer, sitting on marble steps scalloped by centuries of feet.

The Citadel from St Johns 72 ©2012 Trici Venola.
The Citadel from St John’s ©2012 Trici Venola.

A guard came upon me, and I showed him my sketchbook. It’s wonderful the way people’s faces crease into smiles, seeing the drawings. Later, he and a colleague invited me to tea. I may dedicate my next book on Turkey to the men and women who guard the ruins here, as they have allowed me perspectives I never would have found on my own. They’ve provided chairs, shade, secret views, restroom privileges, heat, tea, and enthusiasm, while protecting these world treasures so that I can experience them. Here on the right is my nice guard, Arif, and his colleague Ismet posing in front of a passage in St John’s. I did this all from life. Don’t they look fine?

The Guards at St Johns 72 ©2012 by Trici Venola.
The Guards at St John’s Basilica ©2012 by Trici Venola.

I snapped some shots of them, and as they were cracking up in one, I did another take from the photos, wanting to catch those grins. That’s the Citadel again, this time from their guard station at the back of the Basilica ruin.

Ismet & Arif at St Johns 72 ©2012 by Trici Venola.
Ismet & Arif at St John’s ©2012 by Trici Venola.

How did St John wind up there?

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