House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Turkey

Meryem Ana Evi
Entrance: TL 20
Opening Hours: Nov to Feb – 8AM to 5PM; Mar & Oct – 730AM to 6PM; rest of the year – 730AM to 7PM
Mass: Nov to Feb – 5PM; Mar to Oct – 6PM; additional English mass at 1030AM Sundays
Taxi: 50-60 TL return from Selcuk or Efes/Ephesus, 80 if including the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers (free) and Temple of Artemis (free)

House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey

Image of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus, en route to the top of Bulbul Dağ where the House of Mary is located

I call myself a Marian devotee, but the truth is I only know of her life up until Jesus died, when she was entrusted to St.John with the words: “Here is your mother.” It did not occur to me that parts of her life after Jesus was documented, so I was surprised when, as I was researching for this trip, I discovered that she spent the last nine years of her life here in Ephesus, where St. John had built a home for her, before her assumption to heaven.

Although no one can say with 100% certainty that this is indeed Mother Mary’s house – even the Vatican, despite its granting the site the status of a “Holy Place” and having been visited by three Popes, has never officially pronounced its authenticity – faith has been enough for it to be visited by pilgrims by the thousands, year after year.

Its discovery is both fascinating and miraculous. A German nun, Sister Anna Katharina Emmerick, who was confined to her bed for 12 years due to an incurable disease, had extremely detailed “visions” on the life of Jesus and Mary. She has never traveled outside her country and is not a scholar, so how she was able to describe places in detail, and reportedly in the Aramaic language was truly a mystery. In her earlier years, it is also said that she spoke with the Child Jesus and received the stigmata. It wasn’t long before stories of her and her visions spread, until German poet Clemens Brentano decided to move to St. Katharina’s hometown to put these visions on paper, which he later decided to publish. There, details of Mary’s life, including her supposed homes after Jesus’ Ascension, were revealed.

House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey

An impluvium where an atrium used to stand

After Our Lord’s Ascension Mary lived for three years on Mount Zion (Jerusalem), for three years in Bethany, and for nine years in Ephesus, whither St. John took her soon after the Jews had set Lazarus and his sisters adrift upon the sea. Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it where several women who were her close friends had settled. Mary’s dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem some three and a half hours from Ephesus. Narrow paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some half-hour’s journey in circumference, overgrown, like the hill itself, with wild trees and bushes. It was on this plateau that the Jewish settlers had made their home. It is a very lonely place, but has many fertile and pleasant slopes as well as rock-caves, clean and dry and surrounded by patches of sand. It is wild but not desolate, and scattered about it are a number of trees, pyramid shaped, with big shady branches below and smooth trunks.

John had had a house built for the Blessed Virgin before he brought her here. Several Christian families and holy women had already settled here, some in caves in the earth or the rocks, fitted out with light woodwork to make dwellings, and some in fragile huts or tents.

They had come here to escape violent persecution. Their dwellings were like hermits’ cells, for they used as their refuges what nature offered them. As a rule, they lived at a quarter of an hour’s distance from each other. The whole settlement was like a scattered village. Mary’s house was the only one built of stone. A little way behind it was the summit of the rocky hill from which one could see over the trees and hills to Ephesus and the sea with its many islands. The place is nearer the sea than Ephesus, which must be several hours’ journey distant from the coast.

In 1891, two priests, Fathers Jung and Poulin, upon the recommendation of Sister Marie de Mandat Grancey, set off to discover whether this site as it was described truly existed… and that is how they found the ruins of a small house on top of a mountain – the plateau, the ruins, the mountain behind them and the sea before them – all just as described by St. Katharina, who was later proclaimed Saint by Pope John Paul II. Several other groups came to check and verify the details of the site against those of St Katharina, and all came with one conclusion: the ruins must be Mary’s house in Ephesus.

House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey

A daily mass is held at the House of the Virgin Mary

I cannot describe how it feels to be able to step foot inside her house, and I won’t even try – except to say that it was a very emotional one. It is a holy place for both Christians and Muslims, so it was humbling to see people of both faiths pay respect to the holy Virgin Mary. Incredibly, incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

Incredibly blessed

Incredibly blessed and grateful

Tips and other notes:
– There is a “wall of wishes” below the house, where visitors tie white cloths containing prayer requests
– One can also get holy water from the spring just after the house, behind a small shop
– Note that taxis only wait for 30-40 minutes, so if intending to hear mass, best to rent a car, or talk to taxi driver prior to the trip.
– The place where the altar is now placed used to be Mary’s kitchen, and the extended room as you exit the chapel is her room

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