The house of the Virgin Mary near Kusadasi is close to the ancient ruins of the city of Ephesus, yet despite the huge popularity of the latter, many people do not take the detour to visit the suspected house where the Mother Mary lived and died. Although the Catholic Church has never confirmed this to be the place of her assumption, three popes have visited, and the Church takes responsibility for running the house through donations and funding.
It is a pilgrimage place for Christians, but the Quran also talks about the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana) which prompts Muslims to visit as well. Whether this is, the holy place of the Virgin Mary is purely about belief and any hard-core atheist would scoff at the idea yet some people have remarked to me, that they did feel an intense holy presence that will encourage their memories to last a lifetime.
Discovery of the Virgin Mary’s House near Ephesus
Historians and religious experts widely agree that Saint John, Saint Paul and the Virgin Mary spent time living in the ancient city of Ephesus that these days is one of Turkey’s top visited attractions. However, the discovery of the house came from an unexpected source.
In the early 19th century, a nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich took to her bed where she dreamed intensely. Some sources say it was religious ecstasy while others simply report that she had contracted a fever.
Her dreams and visions included stories of the life of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Noted and published in a book, fifty-seven years after her death; a priest read and followed the descriptions to discover the last resting place of the Virgin Mary.
Anne the nun and the priest had never been to Ephesus and at that time, excavation work had not started so it was not as widely known as it is today, so was it coincidence or the divine truth? The priest believed he had found the house yet it took many years to convince others. These days as well as being a shrine, it is also a chapel and place of worship.
Visiting Mary’s House
On each occasion, I have driven up winding mountain roads to reach the place. On my first visit, the narrow stretch of road was hair-raising especially if a coach came whizzing around the corner from the opposite direction. Thankfully, in later years, road conditions have improved and after paying the entrance fee, visitors arrive at the car park.
Walking past the souvenir shops and café, the first landmark is the baptism pool and immediately after is the seating area for monthly religious services and then the house comes into view. The humble appearance of plain stone bricks and a small size makes it seem insignificant.
While the bottom half of the house is the original building, the top half was restored with an effort to maintain as much of the original appearance as possible. Walking through the metal door, visitors pick up a candle before proceeding to the main area where a statue of the Virgin Mary stands.
Naturally as a place of worship, silence is expected and a conservative dress code is in place. While a religious person may spend a considerable amount of time in the chapel, my agnostic beliefs mean I walk through quickly and pass through the green and well-kept gardens to reach the three taps of holy water.
Holy Water and Wishing Wall
Visitors take a sip from any of the metal taps and make a wish. Local urban legends say that each tap resembles an aspect of life. One reflects wealth, another signifies health, and the last one is fertility. They are not labeled but whichever one you drink from, that gift will come your way.
Lastly, at the end of the tour, visitors reach the wishing wall, a popular concept known all over Turkey and also used on trees. While tying a personal possession such as a napkin, handkerchief or piece of paper, make a wish and it will come true.
With the taps and wishing wall, it is natural for any religious person to come away feeling lucky and blessed in life. Personally, I do not believe in either but the house of the Virgin Mary is a quiet serene place and it lends weight to the story that Mary spent part of her life in the ancient city of Ephesus.
I am not religious but have visited on 3 occasions and enjoyed the time I spent there, even it was just a reflection of the peace and quiet. If you visit Ephesus, take the time out for a two-hour detour and visit the house of the Virgin Mary. Then come back and let me know if you felt the holy presence.