St. John & Virgin Mary

August 01, 2007


Christ’s disciple, John the Beloved, has always been a favorite of mine and his words about love, so I was interested in seeing the basilica where his tomb was which had been a very popular sacred pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. He was the only disciple who had been present at the crucifixion and after Christ’s death, St. John came with Mary to Ephesus. He lived most of his life in and around Ayasoluk Hill, and as St. Paul had before him, spread the word of Christianity.

We actually did not know much about this history before coming here. He played a very important part in the dissemination of Christianity and wrote the Apocalypse to raise the moral of the early Christians who were persecuted and oppressed.

St. John’s grave was marked by a memorial and in the 4th century was enclosed by a modest church. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian had a magnificent, six domed basilica built on this site and if fully restored today, it would be the seventh largest church in the world. The Selcuks converted into a mosque in 1330 and it was burned and destroyed in 1402 by the Mongols.

We actually visited St. Johns Basilica and the Virgin Mary’s house on a day before visiting Epheus. It was a fairly spontaneous decision as I was reading one of my books at breakfast that noted  there was a mass at Mary’s house on Sundays at ten thirty. Since Sunday is not a good day to visit Ephesus, we decided to quickly hail a cab and visit St. Mary’s house a few miles away, while there was a Sunday Mass going on, and then follow that with a tour of  St.Johns Basilica on the way back, which was only a short walk away from our hotel.

The small house is high on a hill (358m) in a peaceful wooded area that is now a national park. The views of the surrounding countryside are beautiful from this height, which also  gives it a cooler temperature. It was a good idea to go while the mass was taking place outside and the sound of the hymns added to the silence and bird sounds, enriched our visit. Although we have long followed a different church, DaVinci and I were both raised as Catholics (he spent twelve years in parochial
schools) so there is a sweet, childhood familiarity to the rituals of a mass.

It had long been the custom of the local Christians (in Sirince or Kirkince... pronounced “chur-inch-chay”... the descendants of the Ephesus Christians) to make their way to this small chapel in the woods to celebrate the Dormition of the Virgin (passing of Virgin from earth life celebrated in the Orthodox Church). They firmly believed that this is where the Virgin spent her last days as it is an oral tradition that had been handed down for generations. Pope Benoit XIV (1675-1758), Dom Ruinart (1657-1707) and others all agreed that St. John the Apostle took Mary to Asia Minor between the years 37 and 45.

The location was “discovered” in the 19th century by Sister Anna Catherine Emmerich, a German invalid who had never left home. She dreamt about it and woke up with a stigmata. The site was later found exactly as she had described and later verified as authentic by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II who have visited the site.

Whether this is the actual house of the Virgin Mary can not be proven without a doubt, but we were glad that we came and enjoyed this very peaceful spot. There is a bronze statue of Mary, that had been excavated from the site in the 19th century that greets you as you enter.

We enjoyed walking around on the grounds that are very pretty and tranquil. We listened to a little of the mass outside and then lined up to see inside the tiny house which has been turned into a minute chapel. We kneeled and said a prayer and Mozart enjoyed that and lighting a candle for her Grandpa and Grandma who are going through a challenging time.

There is a sacred spring there that is suppose to heal every infirmity, so she enjoyed lining up for that on the hot morning and even enjoyed putting some on my knee to heal it. She was fascinated by a huge wall of tied rags where people left the symbol for a prayer, so she had to participate in that which we improvised out of a piece of paper and an extra hair rubber band that we had with us.

It was a sweet and contemplative day where we enjoyed nature and prayer, while taking time to discuss religion and belief systems. We thought about those early Christians and wondered what life must have been like then. We walked past the Isabey  Mosque (which translates to Jesus) that was near the basilica and first saw the storks that day. We had an excellent and simple Turkish lunch at a nearby out door cafe before making our way back to the Kalehan where we soaked in the pool and reflected on what we saw and learned.













« previous | | next »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference St. John & Virgin Mary:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Loved looking at all your Turkey pictures. We spent three weeks there last spring and just adored it! We were very lucky to have as our guide Serif Yenen, the author of A Turkish Odyssey.
I do agree with you that it is a shame that more Americans do not visit Turkey. Most people we told responded with you're going where? Are you crazy? Those that don't go are the crazy ones.


Hi Carol,
We are moving, so I am just now getting a chance to answer this. I am so glad to hear about your travels to Turkey and must admit I have to agree with you!!

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner