If you are a devout Catholic the House of the Virgin Mary is probably high on your want to see list. I’m long lapsed but as it was included in our Turkey itinerary I was happy to see what is believed to be the place where Mary spent the last years of her life. What I didn´t know was that Muslims also believe in the virgin birth and recognise Mary as the mother of the ‘Prophet Jesus’ so they also join the hordes of people flocking to this humble abode and whether you believe or not the location is spectacular.
It is easy to find your way around as it is all well signposted. First, you will come to the small house that consists of a bedroom, kitchen and an altar, with images of Mary and candles. You can light a candle and kneel to pray if you wish but because of the queues it does feel as if you are being herded onwards.
You come out of the house and enter the gardens that are quiet and serene and contain arches that have taps dispensing spring water. Several of our group filled their water bottles as the spring is believed to have healing properties and miracles have been reported. Personally after sipping directly from the tap I didn’t find any miraculous cure, my feet were still aching.
There is also a wall where people have tied hankies, scarves and small personal items. The purpose being as you tie your object you say a prayer and your wish may be granted.
According to scriptures as Jesus was dying on the cross he entrusted the care of Mary to St John and as time passed Mary and John relocated to Ephesus to live out their days.
In 1812 a German nun Sister Emmerich, awoke with the stigmata and had visions that included the Virgin Mary and St. John travelling from Jerusalem to Ephesus and she described a stone house, that John had built for Mary. It had a bedroom, which had a spring running through it. The nun went on to say that Mary died at the age of 64 and her coffin was buried in a cave near her house.
Years after Emmerich’s visions, a French clergyman travelled to Ephesus to find the House. He found a house matching the nun’s description and sent word to the bishops in Rome. They in turn sent two priests to the house and they found a small chapel in ruins with a damaged statue of the Virgin.
Of course the actual house you see is a reconstruction but based on reports from archaeologists who have examined the building they believe it dates from the 6th or 7th century. However, its foundations are much older and could well date from the 1st century AD, the time of Mary. The coffin was also found, however when it was opened it was empty.
I’m saying nowt!