Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The tomb of St John the Apostle

Those of you who followed my travel blogs will have read about my "discovery" of the Tomb of St John in the ruins of the 6th Century Basilica of St John in Selcuk near ancient Ephesus in Turkey. You can read more about this basilica here and below is a picture I snapped of the tomb itself.
I was surprised that my journey led me to this spot, as I have never before asked myself where St John was buried. All the checking I have done since indicates that this is the only place indicated by tradition for the burial of this important apostle. There is nothing to indicate that at any stage his remains have been removed from this spot. To my knowledge, there is no other place associated with the veneration of St John's final resting place.

Butler's Lives of the Saints has this reference:
St John was buried on a mountain without the town. The dust of his tomb was carried away out of devotion, and was famous for miracles, as St Austin, St Ephrem, and St Gregory of Tours mention. A stately church stood formerly over this tomb, which is at present a Turkish Mosque.
That isn't quite accurate. The church is in ruins, and the mosque referred to is the Isa Bey Mosque (Lord Jesus Mosque!) just down the hill (although in the last years before it was completely demolished by earthquake in the 14th Century, the church itself was used as both a mosque and a church). The Mosque has its own peculiarity in that it doesn't face Mecca, but more on that in a separate blog.

So--considering what a great to do there is about the resting place of other great apostles such as St Peter (St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican) and St Paul (St Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome)--why is this holy place allowed to go unrecognised, unadorned, unkept, unvisited by pilgrims, uncelebrated by the liturgy, and just about un-everything else? Is this a happy situation? I don't think so.

I'm not calling for another crusade or anything, but I ask you: should the final resting place of the beloved disciple, the guardian of the Blessed Virgin in her old age, the Divine Theologian of the most sublime Gospel and the resplendant Apocalypse, be forgotten? What can we do about this?

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