On a pilgrimage to Ephesus you can see some of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in the Mediterranean and learn about the site’s connections to Biblical history.
Located on the western edge of Turkey, at one time Ephesus was an Aegean coastal city but today, thanks to the silting in of its harbor, it lies about three miles inland, close to the modern town of Selçuk. Millions of visitors come to Ephesus each year to see its magnificent ruins, including Christian pilgrims eager to explore its connections to Biblical history.
Ephesus grew rich both because of its favorable location and as the site of the Temple to Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. During the first century it was one of the most important centers for the early Christian Church and was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. The city is known for its connections to figures that include St. Paul, St. John, and the Virgin Mary, and was also the site of the Third Ecumenical Council in 431.
Many tourists reach Ephesus via a short airplane flight from Istanbul to Izmir (the ancient city of Smyrna). Ephesus itself has no overnight accommodations, but the nearby resort city of Kuşadası has many hotels and restaurants. Kuşadası is about an hour’s drive from Izmir.
The history of Ephesus stretches back to at least 1000 B.C., though the ruins visible today are remnants of a fourth-century B.C. city founded by Alexander the Great’s successor, Lysinachus. Under the Romans Ephesus became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world.
The city was destroyed by the Goths in the third century but was rebuilt by the Emperor Constantine, only to be destroyed again by an earthquake in 614. The marble blocks from its homes, temples, and other structures were carted off to make other buildings or were left in disarray, and the site was completely abandoned by the 15th century.
Today Ephesus is one of the major attractions in the Mediterranean. Excavations of Ephesus have been underway for more than a century and archeologists continue to work at the site. Just a small portion of the city has been excavated, but what has been done is spectacular.
- The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
- Greco-Roman ruins at Ephesus
- The Basilica of St. John near Ephesus
- The House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus
- St. Paul in Ephesus
Before visiting these sites, I hope you’ll read my book Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles and God, which is a memoir told through trips to a dozen holy sites around the world. One of the chapters is on my experiences in Ephesus.
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Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.