In the closing years of the nineteenth century, the Aegean coast of Turkey witnessed three of the greatest archaeological finds of all time. Two of these Ė the discoveries of the ruins of Ephesus and Troy, made international headlines overnight. The third, however, in 1881, was immediately enveloped in secrecy.

It was kept a secret because nobody in the Vatican believed that an obscure French priest, following the visions of an equally obscure German nun and mystic, could possibly have found the actual house where the Virgin Mary spent her last years. Yet by the end of the century the evidence had become so compelling that scholars had pronounced the discovery authentic and Pope Leo XIII had declared the site a place of pilgrimage.

Located on the top of "Nightingale" mountain, The House of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana in Turkish), is located in a nature park between Ephesus and Seljuk, and is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The peaceful site is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, and is visited by many tourists and pilgrims.
It is the place where Mary may have spent her last days. Indeed, she may have come to the area together with the Apostle John, who spent several years in Ephesus to spread Christianity. For three years, Apostle Paul preached Christianity in Ephesus after 53 AD. When he died, Apostle John replaced him. The legend says that Virgin Mary came with him and lived in Ephesus until her death. (AD 37-45)

Statue on the drive up Nightingale Mountain

According to predominant Christian tradition, Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the Resurrection of Christ and lived out her days there. This is based mainly on the traditional belief that John came to Ephesus combined with the biblical statement that Jesus consigned her to John's care (John 19:26-27).
The house is a typical Roman architectural example, entirely made of stones. Archaeologists who have examined the home believe most of the building dates from the 6th or 7th century. But its foundations are much older and may well date from the 1st century AD, the time of Mary.
Pope Paul VI visited in the 1960's. Later, in the 1980's, during his visit, Pope John-Paul II declared the Shrine of Virgin Mary as a pilgrimage place for Christians.  It is also visited by Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of one of their prophets. Every year, on August 15th, a ceremony is organized to commemorate Mary's Assumption. On November 29, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass here.


Another statue near the entrance to the House


Key-hole shaped baptismal pool that St John and Mary used as they converted followers to Christianity.


This picture is a good representation of the original foundation

 (the darker brick is original)


The mystery of this site started with a German nun called Catherine Emmerich who was born in 1772.  She documented a story called, "The Life of the Holy Virgin Mary", where she describes in great detail the exact description locating the house where Mary lived, on a mountain in Ephesus.

Sister Emmerich, an invalid confined to bed, awoke in a trance with the stigmata and visions that included the Virgin Mary and Apostle John traveling from Jerusalem to Ephesus. She described Maryís house in detail, which was recorded at her bedside. Emmerich described a rectangular stone house, which John had built for Mary. It had a fireplace and an apse and a round back wall. The room next to the apse was Maryís bedroom, which had a spring running into it.  The spring that runs under the Virginís House is believed to have healing properties, and many miracles have been reported. Inside the house are crutches and canes said to be left behind by those who were healed by the sacred spring.

Sister Emmerich also described Mary's death and bodily resurrection from this place as well as a cave next to it, the stations of the Cross, a Basilica John built for Mary, the cave of Johnís death and his Basilica -  all in Ephesus.

In the late 1890ís two priests were fascinated by her writings and decided to research what she wrote. The priests were amazed with what they found, by an invalid nun who had never left Germany. They found a site with holes in the ground for a cistern and a well, along with a destroyed chapel whose foundations likely dated from the first century. In the minds of many, Maryís house had been found. In 1951, the site was carefully restored to reflect the way the home was when Mary lived there over 2,000 years ago.




View from the side and exit area

The shrine has an air of tranquility and peace being surrounded by pines and olive trees


No cameras or photography was allowed inside, so the photo below is from the website of the tour company we hired, Ephesus Deluxe.


There is a statue of Mary in the apse which has been there for centuries. There was a fireplace at the front where gray marble separated it from the rest of the house. During excavations coal and household utensils were found dating to the 1st century AD.



A nun in a vivid robin's egg blue habit



When I walked out of the house, I was covered in goose bumps, my eyes filled with tears and I felt slightly lightheaded. I remember saying to myself, "wow, what just happened in there?"  It was such a profound spiritual and emotional experience. There was no question in my mind - at that point - that the legend is true. This was the last residence of the Virgin Mary. 

Visitors to the shrine may light a votive candle and say a prayer asking for divine help.



Below the chapel, there is a wall where thousands of people have attached prayers written on pieces of paper, seeking The Virgin Maryís intervention and help with difficulties in their lives. They are stuffed, hung and tied together in such a way that from a distance they give the appearance of a white shag carpet!


Also along the wall are several recesses offering access to water from the spring, which is said to have healing properties. It is believed that Mary lived her last days drinking the healing water of this fountain. Today it is still regarded as holy water and many claims have been made of cures by drinking this water.


This house and the story, are still circumstantial. It's no different from any other improvable story in religion. It requires a leap of faith. 

The supporters of the belief that the Virgin Mary lived her last years and died in Ephesus base their theory on two main points:

-- The presence of the Tomb of St. John and St. John's Basilica in Ephesus. Jesus Christ, before dying on the cross, entrusted to St. John his mother (19:26-27). It is believed that after the crucifixion of Jesus, St. John left Jerusalem and came to Ephesus, one of the biggest and safest cities of its time (capital of the Asia Minor province of the Roman Empire), and built a small hut for Virgin Mary just outside Ephesus in order to protect her from the non-Christian community of Ephesus.

-- The presence of the Church of Mary, the first basilica in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in Ephesus. In the early centuries of Christianity, places of worship were dedicated only to persons who lived or died in the locality.


There is remarkable story behind this discovery and it's well worth the time to read about it (or visit) and come to your own conclusions.


"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


© Patty