Sunday, 5 July 2015

The House of the Virgin Mary

Monday 15 June 2015. During the night the Thomson Majesty has crossed the Aegean Sea dodging krakens, Roman galleys rowing at ramming speed, Jason and several Argonauts on a drunken spree, and the wrath of Poseidon.

We wake to find ourselves in Kusadasi on the Turkish coast and having had breakfast we head off the ship just in time to see this tall ship heading into port to dock on the opposite side of the jetty to us.

This morning we have a half-day excursion and settle ourselves into the front and second row seats of a coach behind the driver. Our tour guide is a young woman, Olcae - "Call me O.J." - who claims to be beautiful because all the most beautiful girls come from Izmir, which is where she lives. She's great fun and we have a great time teasing her and being teased back.

Our first stop is at the House of the Virgin Mary. This is believed to be the place where she lived following the Crucifixion. She was brought to Ephesus by St John the Apostle who wrote his book of the New Testament in the area. We have been here before and the evidence for the claim is presented here as a copy of my entry about our 2009 visit. Apologies for the repetition to those long-standing readers with good memories!

The first church to the Virgin Mary was also built in this region, at a time when church dedications were only made to those who had lived locally.

In 1812 a German nun, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, who was an invalid and who had never travelled away from her home, had a vision of Mary's journey with John and of her home which she described in detail, her description being written down word for word by the writer Brentano. During the visions Catherine developed the marks of the stigmata - the 5 wounds of Christ.

Years later a French clergyman read the account and travelled to Ephesus in search of the house and found this chapel, an exact match for the description. He wrote to Rome but there was not much of a response. In 1891 however more clergy and Catholic officials visited the site. From the following year it became a place of pilgrimage and was restored in 1897. The chapel is believed to have been built in the 6th or 7th century but on foundations of the 1st century, which are still visible and marked with a red line.

The site has been visited by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass here.

Climbing down to the sacred wells which were also described in the visions of Sister Emmerich. Actually they are sacred taps these days... Progress you know...

O.J. explains a little about the house and springs.

The three springs for health, love and wealth. I had misremembered this as health, wealth and happiness and just drank from the last one. Darn, what am I going to do with all that money when it arrives...?

Miss Jeannie is rubbing a bit of happiness on her face... So sorry Jeannie - it's really wealth...

Meanwhile David is stocking up on a bit of health...

We make it back to the coach park and our driver is standing smiling at the front of his bus so we will know which to get on.
"Who is this gorgeous girl, getting on our bus?" asked David.
"My God, she's beautiful!" I gasped, "She must be from Izmir!"

We set off down the hills towards Ephesus, stopping halfway to admire the statue of the Virgin Mary, donated by an American society.

This spot also provides a viewpoint to the modern city of Sel├žuk. There's chunk of the old city of Ephesus close to the centre of the photo.

And twisting a little to the left we see the Odeion or Small Theatre close to the entrance to Ephesus, which will be the subject of our next entry.

[Drama!] There's some sort of disaster occurring behind the coach. The driver and O.J. rush round to see what has happened. O.J. comes back with a plea - "Has anyone got any tissues? Someone has trodden in something we don't want on the coach..."

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