This building started life in the 2nd century AD as an important school of higher education known as a Museion. It was converted into a Christian Basilica in the 4th century AD and significantly modified and added to as part of the repurposing. This church was where the important Ecumenical Council of Ephesus was held in 431 AD. The church was further modified during the reign of Justinian.
Associated with the legend of the "Seven Sleepers" where seven Christian men miraculously slept for 200 years in a cave thereby avoiding persecution. Seen as a miracle of God the men were revered and when they died they were buried here and a church was erected above. Many graves are to be found at the site likely as so many wanted to buried near to the miracle men. The excavations here concluded that the Church and the graves appeared to be from the 5th and 6th centuries.
Remains of the 6th century AD Basilica to St. John reportedly built upon the saints' tomb and commissioned by the Emperor Justinian. Attacks on Ephesus in the 7th and 8th centuries prompted the fortification of the area immediately surrounding the Basilica The basilica has been extensively excavated and restored since the 1920's.
The ancient city of Ephesus was famous in antiquity due to the presence of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - The Temple of Artemis - on the edge of the settlement. This influence continued in late antiquity, despite the gradual silting up of the harbour, due to St. Paul preaching at the site and the fact that in 431 a pivotal Church Council was held at the Church of the Virgin in the city. This influence continued at least into the C6th, when the Emperor Justinian set up a column on the road to the harbour.
Ephesus also has links with apocryphal Christian legends, including the story of the "Seven Sleepers" which is attached to the rock-cut cemetery north of the city and the fact that the virgin is believed to have retired to a modest home in the area.