Virgin Mary's House, Ephesus
Legend has it that the Virgin Mary lived her last days on earth in a small stone cottage on Mount Koressos (Bülbüldağı, "Nightingale Mountain" in Turkish) to the south of Ephesus (map).
This would be appropriate, as Ephesus was the ancient world's center of worship for the Anatolian Mother Goddess for millennia, since Hittite times. Mary followed in the footsteps of Cybele and her forebears.
Meryemana ("Mother Mary"), as the place is called, is located in a municipal park on the mountaintop 9 km (5.6 miles) from Selçuk, 5.5 km from the Upper Gate entrance to the Ephesus archeological site.
An Expensive Excursion
There is no regular public transport, so to reach the site you'll need your own vehicle, a taxi or a tour to take you along the winding road up the steep slope.
When you get to the entrance (open every day from 08:00 to 19:00 [7 pm]), you will be required to pay for your vehicle, and for each person in your party, making this a surprisingly expensive excursion.
All of this money goes to the Municipality of Selçuk, which maintains the park. None of it goes to the shrine of the Virgin Mary, which asks for your support through donations.
A Bit of History
Lost to history for centuries, the foundations of the house were rediscovered through the miraculous visions of a German nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), who gave detailed directions and descriptions of the house.
Her directions were followed by Abbé Julien Gouyet of Paris in 1881, and by two Lazarist missionaries from Izmir in 1891. Both expeditions ended at the same place, a spot on Mt Koressos which had been venerated by local people—both Christian and Muslim—for centuries.
Excavations uncovered ancient stone foundations, most from the 500s and 600s, but some from the 1st century AD, when Mary would have been alive.
Today the Virgin Mary's House is a goal for pilgrims who come from far away to visit the house rebuilt as a chapel, to sip the waters of an adjoining spring said to have curative powers, and to enjoy the pine-shaded mountaintop location.
A commemorative service is held each August 15th commemorating the Virgin Mary's Assumption into heaven.
After a visit by Pope Paul VI in 1967, the Catholic church confirmed the authenticity of the legend and the visions. Pope John Paul II visited in 1979, and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
—by Tom Brosnahan