The Cave of the Seven Sleepers


The modern path, leading out from the city walls, leads to the Cave of the Seven Sleepers on Mount Pion (Panayır Dağı). According to written accounts, this is the place where seven young men and their dog came to after running away from the city because of the persecution of Christians during the reign of Emperor Decius (249-251A.D.) and after falling asleep, they woke up 200 years later during the reign of Emperor Theodosios ll. When these seven men and their dog woke up after the passage of 200 years, Christianity had become the official religion of Rome. The same story is also known and believed by Muslims (it is related in the 18th Sura of the Holy Koran). This account has been associated with many other caves in Anatolia. The next most important of these other cave of the Seven Sleepers was the sacred cave at Arabissos in Cappadocia. The oldest part of the sacred place at Ephesus is the graveyard section, established in the 4th century A.D. around this wide fissure in the foothills of Mount Pion. There was a small, two-storey graveyard structure and ten crypt chambers under the ground, where the seven men were thought to have been burried and a church was then constructed over this place. Legends record it was constructed in the middle of the 5th century A.D. during the reign of Emperor Theodosios ll and this date accords with the archeological finds, the date of the traces of mosaic and murals. The church was connected to these underground chambers via stairs in the norhern wall of the front entrance. The church had a main chambers with domes and mosaic floors, theater-like built-in benches of square section, a synthronus, upon which the bishop and this presbyters sat, and an apsed presbyterion with an altar. There was a vaulted and covered crypt on the western side of the church. When the crypt became full, various new crypts were constructed of brick and about 700 of these crypts were found here. The cave, which was accepted as the site of the cave of the seven sleepers by Christians, has been visited not only by Christians but also by Muslim pilgrims since the Middle Ages.

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