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FLIGHT FROM JERUSALEM and COMING
TO EPHESUS (1)(2)
In the first half of the 1st century, the early Christians were badly
persecuted in Jerusalem and the situation was becoming increasingly
worse for them. The persecution began when in AD 36 St. Stephen, a
deacon of the Apostles, was stoned to death. Other events followed
this. Agrippa I (Herodes) who proclaimed himself king in AD 41, in
order to increase to esteem his supporters had for him, executed St.
James, the brother of St. John, and imprisoned St. Peter. These events
led to a great disturbance among Christians and they began to disperse
into Judaea and Samaria.
From the cross in Golgotha, Jesus turned to his Mother and St. John,
who were accompanying him, and entrusted them to each other saying "
Mother, here is your son" to his mother and "Here is your Mother" to
St. John. According to the Bible, after this, St. John took the
mother of Jesus to his home to protect Her.
Sometime after these events, the twelve disciples of Jesus who had been
the first to believe in Him went to different regions to spread
Christianity and to enlighten the people. St. John's region of work was
the Asian province of Anatolia (currently Turkey). His purpose was, on
the one hand to move away from danger and on the other, while doing
that, to spread Christianity to the West, to the Roman world, through
the densely populated cities of West Anatolia. Ephesus was
the most important of these.
The minutes of the Ecumenical Council of 431 indicate that St. John and
the Virgin Mary stayed for a short time in the old building, a section
of which is today under the Council Church ( Originally called: Church
of the Virgin Mary).
Christianity spread beyond the limits of Ephesus and in various cities
of Anatolia places of worship were founded which were later called the
"Seven Churches of Asia Minor" and Ephesus became their center.
Considering the fact that St. John remained in Ephesus until his death
and that he was named the "Apostle of Asia", his importance in Ephesus
of Asia (Aegean Region of Anatolia, in the Roman expression of that
time and Turkey of today), the last wish of Jesus, and consequently the
Virgin Mary's having remained with him can be more easily understood.
The historian Eusebius states that St. John had gone over for certain
to Asia Minor at that time and had continued his work there.
We know that St. John had written his Gospel for the Ephesians and that
it covers the problems of the Ephesian Christians, and the questions
they asked him and his answers to these questions. He alludes only
vaguely to the coming of the Virgin Mary to Ephesus. In spite of the
many studies undertaken to this day, it has not been possible to bring
to light the details relating to the life of the Virgin Mary.
St. Jerome (347-419), who had written about the geography of Jerusalem
of the 4th century, does not make either any mention of a grave
belonging to the Virgin Mary or of a monument built on her grave in
Jerusalem or in its vicinity. Had there existed such a tomb, he, as a
historian, would certainly have spoken about it.
In the lifetime of St. Jerome, the only church dedicated to Mary was in
In 431 the Third Ecumenical Council met in Ephesus in the one and only
church of the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The purpose of the
meeting of this council was to spectacularly proclaim the title of
"Mother of God " applied to Mary (3) which was objected to by
the then archbishop of Constantinople Nestorious.
OF THE VIRGIN MARY AND THE COUNCIL
Constantine the Great, adopted this religion in 313 A.D. and proclaimed
Christianity the official religion, moved the capital of the empire and
accordingly, the religious center to Byzantium (present Istanbul,
Before Constantine, there had been no effectively centralized
government to dominate the whole Church. The bishops, elected by the
people in the early years, had gradually begun to acquire considerable
power in their region. Constantine, resolve to count on Christianity
for the future of the empire, was spread throughout the region.
Religious conflicts and separations into groups went on until the reign
of Theodosius II (408-450) who, to settle the disputes, called the 3rd
Ecumenical Council to Ephesus.
The Council met in the 2nd Century building called by the same name
today, and about two hundred religious authorities held discussions
there for nearly three months.
It was recorded in the proceedings of the meeting that the Virgin Mary,
on Her arrival at Ephesus, had stayed for sometime in a house which had
stood at the site of this church and that she had ended Her life on
Earth at Ephesus. And the church was dedicated to Her.
Excavation and restoration of the building are at present still going
on. Every year on August 15th, believed to be the day of the
Assumption, religious ceremonies are performed in this building
to commemorate it.
OF THE VIRGIN MARY
The house of Virgin Mary is reached by the road leading from the
Magnesia Gate to Mount Solmissos (Aladag). A round cistern that can be
seen today in the small square 100 meters away from the house and an
arched wall on the side facing the hill were the first remains to be
discovered. The steps on the west side of the cistern are completely
destroyed, only a part resembling a section of a pool is extant.
At the end of the road that goes on from the cistern, there is a small,
domed church with a cross shaped plan. This is the building known as
the House of the Virgin Mary.
What guided the scientists was the archaeologists' finding out that a
part of the foundations of the chapel and some pieces of coal revealed
in the excavations were from the 1st Century.
The interior of the house decorated with various gifts with great care
but, at the same time, in a very simple and modest way seems to
integrate with the Virgin Mary's personality of the same
characteristics. It seems to awake in the visitor deep feeling of
tranquillity. Coming out of the house, one feels like enchanted by the
depth and mystic beauty of the nature unrolling before one's eyes.
The certainty than in the period of persecution in Jerusalem St. John
had made a long journey to Ephesus taking the Virgin Mary with him (See
St. John's Gospel) and the discovery near the theater of Ephesus of the
first church on the earth ascribed to the Virgin Mary, as restored in
the 5th century, have led to the declaration of this house a place of
pilgrimage by Pope Paul VI.
OF THE HOUSE OF THE VIRGIN MARY
The belief that the Virgin Mary had spent her last days on Earth
in a house in the vicinity of Ephesus, focused attention on a nun named
Anna Katherina Emmerich who had lived in the late 18th century
(1774-1820). The efforts to find the house were greatly influenced by
her detailed description of the Virgin Mary's coming to Ephesus, her
life and her last home there, and the characteristics of the city
although she had never been to Ephesus.
Emmerich had seen in her visions the Virgin Mary leaving Jerusalem with
St. John before the persecution of Christians had become worse and
their coming to Ephesus; she had also seen that the house in Ephesus
was on a mountain nearby. She said furthermore that the house of the
Virgin Mary, a stone house, was built by St. John, that it was
rectangular in plan with a round back wall and had an apse and a
hearth. The room next to the apse was her bedroom and there was a
stream of water running beneath it.
A French clergyman named Gouyet who after reading in 1880 C. Brentano's
book " The Life of the Virgin Mary " containing the revelations of Anna
Katherina Emmerich tried to prove these by his writings but was not
successful. Gouyet decided to go Ephesus to see whether the house
mentioned as belonging to the Virgin Mary fitted the description in the
book or not. After a journey free from problems in contrast to his
expectations, Gouyet saw the house, believed that it belonged to the
Virgin Mary and sent his related report to the Bishopric authorities of
Paris and even to Rome, but he did not receive the attention he had
About ten years after this event, H. Jung, a Lazarist priest decided
that it would be useful to see the house in its place. He organized a
second research team with the collaboration of Eugene Poulin (4), a Lazarist priest who
was the director of the French College of Izmir (Smyrna). The team
consisting of two priests and two Catholic functionaries set out on 27
June 1891. Following the guidance of a local guide hired at
Seçuk who knew the area well and the definition of a priest who
said that he had examined the area previously and had found certain
evidences in the Degirmerdere region.
The description in the revelations of Anna Katherina Emmerich mentioned
an abandoned building at the skirt of a mountain with a holy spring
nearby and a view over the ancient city of Ephesus and the sea. Towards
noon on 29 June 1891, the team met a group of peasants working in a
field on a slope lying further on from the Kirkinca village. They had
no water left. Worn out with the heat and fatigue, they asked the
peasants for water. Learning from them they could find water at a
sacred fountain a little ahead, they reached the place described.
When, after satisfying their thirst and taking a rest, they examined
the area around them they were struck with amazement. They had
discovered a small place of worship with the roof fallen in and the
walls in ruin standing among century old plane trees with a spring of
clear water running beside it. And in the apse was standing a statue of
the Virgin Mary with the hands broken off. Nowhere else in the region
was there a scene fitting the description as perfectly as this one did.
Certain that they had found the legendary house of the Virgin Mary,
they returned to Izmir (Smyrna).
Meanwhile, the archbishop of Izmir Monsignor Timoni showed interest in
the matter, and substantiated the situation by a duly signed document
(History of Panaya Kapulu ).
Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, visited the church of the
Virgin Mary (The Council Church ) in Ephesus, but he could not go up
the Solmissos (Aladag) Mountain. Pope Paul VI's visited the house on 26
July 1967, prayed at its apse and presented Holy Gifts. Later on, Pope
John Paul II's visited this holy place of pilgrimage among a big
international crowd on 30 November 1979. His joining in the ceremonies
conducted there, attracted the attention of the world to Ephesus and to
the House of the Virgin Mary.
This place of pilgrimage visited by thousands of tourists every year,
maintains its holiness for the Moslems as well as for the Christian
world. People believing in the Holiness of the Virgin Mary came here
specially to worship, and drinking from the water believed to be sacred
they make wishes in the mystic and quiet atmosphere of Mount Aladag.
by The M+G+R Foundation
miguel de Portugal had the great blessing of visiting this most Holy
site of Friday, August 1, 2003. Although for reasons beyond his control
he was able to remain for only thirty minutes, it seems that God had
made the necessary "arrangements" so that he could offer the Glorious
Mysteries of the Holy Rosary keeling undisturbed at the apse of the
building, before the image referenced to above, and which
providentially ended just in time for the Angelus.
In spite of the fact that he has visited many Marian shrines, including
Josna Gora (Keeper of the Our Lady of Czestochowa icon) in Poland, and
having lived in the Sanctuary of Fatima, this thirty minutes visit to
this most Holy site will be cherished amongst the most special and holy
minutes of his life.
text: Hitit Color, "Virgin Mary",
Istanbul 2000 - ISBN 975-7487-473
(2) Details nonessential
to the Catholic Faith or the central theme of the story related and its
intent were not checked through independent means. Should a discrepancy
or error be noted by one of our readers, please submit the information
fully supported and we will gladly add it to this writing.
(3) The title of "Mother of God " applied to Mary
(4) Fr. Eugene Poulin
writes in his journal "The Holy
Virgin’s House: The True Story of Its Discovery" (ISBN#
Lord, who sees and organizes things, had taken care to put before us a
soul in love with beauty and goodness, who was ready to give herself to
everything good. A great soul, devoted, ardent, pious, and generous;
the noble Sister Marie de Mandat- Grancey. She was, God had chosen her
to be, the terrestrial Providence, like Panaghia Mother! For twelve
years she has been charged of this valiant religious enterprise; she
has never failed."
"Oh! How happy I am to give her all
the respect she merits! Also, could these writings make known to
posterity, long after us, to whom France, the Catholic church are in
debt for Panaghia! The Lord gave me this opportunity to say loudly what
I had in my heart for a long time, to acquit what I deemed to be a
serious debt. It is done. Praise be to God!"
Published on September 8th,
2003 in Honor of the Virgin Mary's Birthday Celebration
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