House of Virgin Mary Nearby Ephesus

At 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 figures.

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 southeast 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.

Anne Catherine Emmerich

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.

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 two Lazarist missionaries, Father Poulin and Father Jung, from Smyrna (today’s Izmir) 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 the members of a distant mountain village who were descended from the 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.

Sister 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.

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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