HOUSE OF THE VIRGIN MARY IN EPHESUS
On top of the Mt.Koressos, overlooking Ephesus lies a small brick house which is hidden among all kinds of Mediterranean trees. To be able to reach the Virgin Mary house, visitors follow the road goes up to the mountain and pass among tangerine, pomegranate and olive gardens. After a scenic drive which allows one to view the pretty farming town of Selcuk and Ephesus ancient city. Tourists of all nationalities leave their vehicles in the parking lot and start walking to the house in a peaceful atmosphere. All hustle and bustle of the daily life leaves behind while feeling the peace and serenity on air. 2000 years ago, The Great Temple of Artemis was attracting same kind of attention in Ephesus. But contrary to the size and grandeur of Artemis Temple, this house is incomparably humble and small. The house is called Meryem Ana Evi (Mother Mary’s House) by native Turks and among the visitors are the pilgrims who believe the house to be the last earthly home of Mother Mary and the place where she spent her last days until her death. Besides being a tourist attraction, it is an official pilgrimage site for Catholics.
Pope Leo XIII formally recognized Mary’s House in Ephesus as an official place of pilgrimage in 1896. His successor, Pope Pius X, granted a plenary indulgence for the remission of sins to pilgrims who make the journey to Mary’s House.
First papal visit to the house was made by Pope Paul VI in 1967 and he did bring a bronze lamp as a present for the “Blessed Virgin’’ with him. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine in 1979 where he celebrated an outdoor mass for thousands of pilgrims. Papal visits increased the popularity of the Virgin Mary’s House in the Catholic World but it is not only the pious Christians but also curious travellers are interested in the history and mystery of the Mother Mary’s House. What is the story behind the house? What is the evidence suggesting that Mother Mary lived and died in Ephesus? One cannot understand the reason why Turkey -or Asia Minor as it was called in the ancient times- has Mother Mary’s House in Ephesus without having information about Ephesus City and its long and tumultous historical background.
A glimpse of the history of Ephesus
Ephesus, one of the most important ancient cities of the world history, lies about 80 kms south of Izmir which is a modern western city of Turkey. Today, breath-taking Roman structures in Ephesus are attracting curious travellers from all over the world. From the day it was founded, Ephesus adorned the dreams of the kings and emperors who sought wealth and prestige.
Ephesus city reveals its hidden historical stories as the archaelogical excavations carry on and evidence shows that Ephesus’ history dates long before to the Roman period. The city was first inhabited by the local Anatolian people known as Lelegians and Carians, then captured by Ionians tribes, led by Androclous the son of Athanean king Kodros, at around 1050 BC. Therefore, the founding of Ephesus is attributed to Androclus. Over time, Greek culture and local Anatolian culture mingled and influenced each other. This cultural synthesis contiued to be affected by other civilisations during the course of the history. After a 500 year of Ionian rule,the city was invaded by Lydian King Croesus in 560 BC. Lydian rule came to an end after Persian invasion in 546 BC. Then, Alexander the Great, defeating the Persians forces at the Battle of Granicus entered the city in 334 BC. Followingly, Ephesus passed to Alexander’s commander Lysimachus in 295 BC. The strategic geographic location was the reason why Ephesus was attracting so much attention. It was a major commercial center having an international trade port located by the Aegean Sea. The port of Ephesus allowed connection with the West via sea routes of Adriatic and with the East via Royal Road starting from the Persia. It was at the Western tip of Asia and the last point of the Royal Road. Eastern merchants used Port of Ephesus to export their goods to Western countries such as Greece and Italy. The same applies to Western merchants trading goods to the Eastern countries. Therefore, Ephesus played a crucial role in the expansion of the Christianity in its early years. St Paul launched many of his missionary journeys from Ephesus.
It was during the Roman rule that Ephesus reached at its glory. It is estimated that the population of to city would have exceeded 250.000 inhabitants which would make it the fourth largest city of its time after Rome, Alexandria and Antioch cities. This was the time of numerous buildings of Roman style and economic prosperity. In 29 BC, Ephesus became the capital city of Asia province of the Roman Empire instead of Pergamum. Shiny white marble streets and adjoining porticos and shops, two agoras, a massive open air theater, fascinating Library of Celsus, governmental buildings, huge bath complexes, houses of the elite (Terrace Houses) adorned with delicate mosaics and frescoes, marble statues, fountain remainings and many other historical Roman remainings are the silent witnesses of once shining star of Roman Ephesus.
Ephesus also owes its fame to The Temple of Artemis, regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world. According to Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (36.97), the temple measured 425 ft in length and was 225 ft wide having 127 marble columns which were 60 ft high.
Is there anybody alive who does not knowthat the city of the Ephesians the guardian of the temple of the great Diana and of her sacred stones that fell from heaven?
Ephesus, the city of the divine female
Ephesus, the city of the divine female
Artemis was the main god of Ephesus and she was respected as a mother goddess. In the ancient times, pilgrims that were attracted by The Temple of Artemis are a part of the crowds that filled the shiny marble streets and forums of this colorful mega-city. According to Pausanias, ancient Greek traveler and geographer of the second century A.D., local Anatolian tribes in Ephesus had a shrine dedicated to local mother goddess Cybele before it was replaced by the Artemis worship that was introduced by the Greek settlers. Artemis was considered as a virgin huntress, she was the mistress of animals, the source of life as a mother goddess and the one who nourishes all creatures on earth. One who visits the Ephesus Archeology Museum today sees the Cybele figures found in Ephesus before reaching the section where the Artemis cult remains are exhibited. After hundred years of Artemis worship, pagan cults were replaced by the Christianity with the efforts of St Paul and John. What more interesting is Virgin Mary was given the title Theotokos, a Greek word that means "God-bearer" (the one who gave birth to God) in Ephesus Council in 431 A.D. that was held in the Church of Mary in Ephesus City. Ephesus, for sure, has been the city of the divine female since Cybele worship of the Bronze Age and this tradition continued with the arrival of Christianity.
Did Mother Mary ever live in Ephesus?
Did Virgin Mary ever live in Ephesus?
In John 19:26–27 we read; ‘’When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, 'Woman, here is your son. ' Then he said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother. ' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.’’ According to the tradition of Ephesus, John and Virgin Mary stayed together after the crucifixion as Jesus entrusted Mary to John the Evangelist. The Christian faithful take this passage from the Bible as a reference and assume that John took Virgin Mary under his protection and they came to Ephesus together. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus in 2nd century mentioned in one of his letters that John was buried in Ephesus. Also, early church historian Eusebius records that the apostles scattered around the Mediterranean after persecution started in Jerusalem, and John came to Ephesus. Ephesus was similar to Constantinople in terms of its strategic location between east and west, being a port city providing easy access to many important centers and being a multicultural and a vibrant hub. This explains why John had decided to come to Ephesus as the city would be a crucial spot to spread Christianity among the pagan Romans.
Ephesus’ historical heritage includes St John the Evangelist’s Tomb at The Basilica of St. John which is a 6TH century-basilica near Ephesus and it stands over the believed burial site of John the Apostle. The basilica was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th and he is the same emperor who constructed Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, present-day Istanbul. One can easily see the remains of the Temple of Artemis from its courtyard. The presence of the basilica is another evidence supporting the theory of St John’s arrival in Ephesus.