house of the Virgin Mary
The House of the Virgin Mary (Turkish: Meryem ana or Meryem Ana Evi, "Mother
Mary's House") is a Catholic and Muslim shrine located on Mt. Koressos (Turkish:
Bülbüldağı, "Mount Nightingale") in the vicinity of Ephesus, 7 kilometres (4.3
mi) from Selçuk in Turkey.
The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions in
the reported visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), a Roman
Catholic nun and visionary, which were published as a book by Clemens Brentano
after her death. The Catholic Church has never pronounced in favour or
against the authenticity of the house, but nevertheless maintains a steady flow
of pilgrimage since its discovery. Anne Catherine Emmerich was Beatified by Pope
John Paul II on October 3, 2004.
Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of
Jesus, was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived there
Assumption (according to Catholic doctrine) or Dormition (according to Orthodox
The shrine has merited several papal Apostolic Blessings and visits from several
popes, the earliest pilgrimage coming from Pope Leo XIII in 1896, and the most
recent in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Description of the site
The shrine itself is not extensively large, but may rather be described as a
modest chapel. The preserved stones and construction date back into the
Apostolic Age, as consistent with other preserved buildings from that time, but
with minor additions such as garden landscapes and devotional additions outside
the shrine. Upon entrance to the chapel, a pilgrim is met by one single large
room where an altar along with a large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is
prominently displayed in the center.
On the right side, a smaller room lies----traditionally associated with the
actual room where the Virgin Mary is believed to have slept. Marian tradition
holds that some form of running water used to flow like a canal in the smaller
room where the Virgin Mary slept and rested, leading to the present drinking
fountain outside the building structure.
Outside the shrine is a particular "wishing wall" which pilgrims have used by
tying their personal intentions on paper or fabric. Various types of florals and
fruits are grown nearby, and additional lighting has been installed within the
vicinity of the shrine for further monitoring of the site. A water fountain or
well is also located nearby, believed by some pilgrims to have miraculous powers
of healing or fertility.
Description in Germany
the beginning of the 19th century, Anne Catherine Emmerich, a bedridden
Augustinian nun in Germany, reported a series of visions in which she recounted
the last days of the life of Jesus, and details of the life of Mary, his mother. Emmerich was ill for a long period of time in the farming community of Dülmen
but was known in Germany as a mystic and was visited by a number of notable
One of Emmerich's visitors was the author Clemens Brentano who after a first
visit stayed in Dülmen for five years to see Emmerich every day and transcribe
the visions she reported. After Emmerich's death, Brentano published a
book based on his transcriptions of her reported visions, and a second book was
published based on his notes after his own death.
One of Emmerich's accounts was a description of the house Apostle John had built
in Ephesus for Mary, the mother of Jesus, where she had lived to the end of her
life. Emmerich provided a number of details about the location of the house, and
the topography of the surrounding area:
Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it. ... Mary's
dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem, some three and
half hours from Ephesus. This hill slopes steeply towards Ephesus; the city, as
one approaches it from the south east seems to lie on rising ground.... Narrow
paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some
half hour's journey.
Emmerich also described the details of the house: that it was built with
rectangular stones, that the windows were high up near the flat roof and that it
consisted of two parts with a hearth at the center of the house. She further
described the location of the doors, the shape of the chimney, etc. The book
containing these descriptions was published in 1852 in Munich, Germany.
Discovery in Turkey
On October 18, 1881, relying on the descriptions in the book by Brentano based
on his conversations with Emmerich, a French priest, the Abbé Julien Gouyet
discovered a small stone building on a mountain overlooking the Aegean Sea and
the ruins of ancient Ephesus in Turkey. He believed it was the house described
by Emmerich and where the Virgin Mary had lived the final years of her life.
Abbé Gouyet's discovery was not taken seriously by most people, but ten years
later, urged by Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, DC, two Lazarist
missionaries, Father Poulin and Father Jung, from Smyrna rediscovered the
building on July 29, 1891, using the same source for a guide. They
learned that the four-walled, roofless ruin had been venerated for a long time
by members of the mountain village of Şirince, 17 km distant, who were descended
from the early Christians of Ephesus. The house is called Panaya Kapulu ("Doorway
to the Virgin"). Every year pilgrims made a pilgrimage to the site on August
15, the date on which most of the Christian world celebrated Mary's Dormition/Assumption.
Marie de Mandat-Grancey was named Foundress of Mary's House by the Catholic
Church and was responsible for acquiring, restoring and preserving Mary's House
and surrounding areas of the mountain from 1891 until her death in 1915. The discovery revived and strengthened a Christian tradition dating from the 12th
century, 'the tradition of Ephesus', which has competed with the older 'Jerusalem
tradition' about the place of the Blessed Virgin's dormition. Due to the actions
of Pope Leo XIII in 1896 and Pope John XXIII in 1961, the Catholic Church first
removed plenary indulgences from the Church of the Dormition in Jerusalem and
then bestowed them for all time to pilgrims to Mary's House in Ephesus.
The restored portion of the structure has been distinguished from the original
remains of the structure by a line painted in red. Some have expressed doubt
about the site, as the tradition of Mary's association with Ephesus arose only
in the 12th century, while the universal tradition among the Fathers of the
Church places her residence, and thereby her Dormition, in Jerusalem. Supporters
base their belief on the presence of the 5th century Church of Mary, the first
basilica in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in Ephesus.
Position of the Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the house,
for lack of scientifically acceptable evidence. It has, however, from the
blessing of the first pilgrimage by Pope Leo XIII in 1896, taken a positive
attitude towards the site. Pope Pius XII, in 1951, following the definition of
the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, elevated the house to the status of a Holy
Place, a privilege later made permanent by Pope John XXIII. The site is visited
and venerated by Muslims as well as Christians. Pilgrims drink from a spring
under the house which is believed to have healing properties. A liturgical
ceremony is held here every year on August 15 to commemorate the Assumption of
Pope Paul VI visited the shrine on July 26, 1967, and Pope John Paul II on
November 30, 1979. Pope Benedict XVI visited this shrine on November 29, 2006,
during his four-day pastoral trip to Turkey.
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