The small brick-and-rubble building located near the southeast corner of the Temple of Artemis is known as ‘Church M’. The structure was probably set up in the later 4th century, and was used by local residents as a place of Christian worship until the early 7th century. The massive medieval landslide that buried the east end of the Temple accounts for the exceptional preservation of Church M, which was discovered in 1911.
The construction of a small church or chapel within the temenos of a classical temple reflects the far-reaching changes that swept across the later Roman Empire during the 4th century. State recognition of Christianity by the emperor Constantine was soon followed by his founding a new eastern capital at Constantinople. While the Temple of Artemis probably had passed out of active use before this time, its massive walls and imposing columns continued to dominate the area. Yet the decline of the cult of Artemis is poorly understood. The official recognition of Christianity in the fourth century led to the closure of pagan sanctuaries, but the building probably remained in use.
In the 4th-5th centuries, terms with Christian significance, “light” (ΦΩΣ) and “life” (ΖΩΗ), along with multiple crosses were carved near the Temple’s east entrance reflect the efforts of local inhabitants to deconsecrate the building and neutralize any lingering spiritual power of the classical cult. The closing of Roman temples under the emperor Theodosius in the 390s may have encouraged some Sardis residents to build houses in the area and to dismantle the classical structure for stone. Church M may have been intended both for devotional use by families living nearby and to commemorate this important change in Lydian religious traditions.