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When visiting Ephesus during our Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, my family and I were able to stop by the Shrine of the Virgin Mary. I didn’t expect the place to be so humble, nor see all the prayers on the wall, or people drinking from what they believed to be a Holy Spring. So let me help educate you on this Christian Shrine, so you can enjoy it a little more when you visit on your Ephesus Excursion.
Is It Really The House Of the Virgin Mary?
There are several evidences that contribute to believers claiming this is truly the Home of the Virgin Mary
1- In nearby Ephesus, there is a presence of the tomb of St John of Ephesus. He was a known, and close, companion of the Virgin Mary.
2- The presence of the first Basilica of the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Ecumenical Council of 431 AD was held in Ephesus in this Basilica for the definition of the dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary. In this council they wrote, “….after his arrival to Ephesus, where John the Theologian and the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God….”
3- Lastly, the Orthodox villagers of nearby Kirkince were believed to be descendants of the Christians that lived in Ephesus. They passed from generation to generation the belief of the Dormition of Mary in this place. They have kept this tradition alive through the annual pilgrimage of the 15th of August.
History of the Shrine of Virgin Mary
The Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary, is believed to be the House of the Virgin Mary is actually in Turkey, its about 26 km (34 min drive) from Ephesus/Kusudasi Port, located on Mount Koressos (or Mount Nightingale).
Typically tour guides can take you from the port to the shrine, where hundreds of both Christian/Catholic & Islamic pilgrims alike come to see the house where Mary spent her last days.
Built in the 4th Century AD, a church, combining her house and grave have been built there. There are two areas within the church for both Christians to worship, and Muslims to worship as well. I thought this was very thoughtful, to allow two religions to worship in their own way and own time.
The Sacred Water
Just next to that you will find the Sacred Fountain of the “Water of Mary”, where some believe that this water has powerful healing properties, and can aid in fertility. Be forewarned it is quite salty, but all are welcome to drink it, make sure to bring your own cup or water bottle if you would like to try any.
The water at the Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary is actually to also have been a small stream that flowed into the home, like most traditional homes of that time, that is to believed to have flowed in the same room as where the Virgin Mary use to sleep within the home, which is why some believe in its healing properties.
Just outside this church you find a wall covered in cloth, I thought it was handkerchiefs to wipe tears away and for a moment mistook it for the Wailing Wall (which is actually in Israel). But this is actually called the ‘Wishing Wall’, where you can come and place a piece of cloth with a prayer on it, hoping that the Virgin Mary will supplicate your cause to God on your behalf.
I think seeing all the hopes, dreams, wishes, and prayers from pilgrims all over the world placed on this wall made me sad in a way. There is a lot going on in this world, and that which is most painful often happens inside the home.
To have an area like this, where I think even writing your wishes/hopes/prayers down, can be therapeutic in a way. I stared at this wall for quite some time, feeling like I was intruding on someone’s private life if I touched any of the prayer cloths. Instead just stood back and observed those putting their prayer cloths on the wishing wall, the way that you could feel the people here pouring their heart into it, it gives this place a very special feeling.
This Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary, although has never been pronounced as an official site of the Virgin Mary, has received 3 different Papal blessings.
Many times Christian pilgramage sites are passed down through generations by word of mouth. So if you ever visit Israel on a Pilgramage, you will hear ‘actual site’ vs ‘traditional site’ of events happening. But to have the heavily isolated villagers of Kirkince deem this place the Panaya Kapulu, or the “Doorway to the Virgin” does make you think that it could very well be a holy site.
Restoration of the Shrine
The Chapel we see today was rebuilt upon the original foundations of the home of the Virgin Mary and appears to date back to the 1st and 4th Centuries. The last restoration on this small dwelling took place in 1951.
The Feeling of This Christian Shrine
I let my mind wander and think that someone who lived during the time of Christ was here, and indeed may have been the Virgin Mary. There was a peaceful feeling inside, despite all the tourists, and a sense of reverance for a woman who has been revered and worshiped for thousands of years.
The drive to this place might take some time, but seeing all the worshipers, the quiet peace in this place combined to make a trip here well worth it to me.