The House of the Virgin (Meryemana in Turkish), located in a nature park between Ephesus and Seljuk, 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.
History of the House of the Virgin
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 (see St. John's Basilica) combined with the biblical statement that Jesus consigned her to John's care (John 19:26-27).
Archaeologists who have examined the building identified as the House of the Virgin 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. This site had long been a place of pilgrimage for local Orthodox Christians.
The modern history of the Virgin Mary's House is unusual. It was "discovered" in 1812 by a German nun, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, who never traveled away from her home.
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 Mary's house in detail, which was recorded at her bedside by a writer named Brentano.
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 Mary's bedroom, which had a spring running into it.
The German nun went on to say that the Virgin Mary died at the age of 64 and was buried in a cave near her house. When her coffin was opened soon after, however, the coffin and burial shroud were empty. The house was then turned into a chapel.
Years after Emmerich's visions, a French clergyman named Gouyet read Brentano's account and traveled to Ephesus to find the House of the Virgin. He found a house matching the nun's description and sent word to the bishops of Paris and Rome, but didn't receive much of a response.
On June 27, 1891, two Lazarist preists and two Catholic officials set out to Ephesus to see the house. They found a small chapel in ruins with a damaged statue of the Virgin.
They returned to Izmir with their report, and more priests and specialists were sent out to the site. Since 1892 the House of the Virgin has been a Catholic pilgrimage site. It was restored by 1897 and a shelter for visitors was set up.
The Meryama was later visited by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who confirmed its appropriateness as a place of pilgrimage. On November 29, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass here.
What to See at the House of the Virgin
The House of the Virgin is a sacred site for both Christians and Muslims (Muslims also believe in the virgin birth and honor Mary as the mother of the Prophet Jesus).
The shrine is still in the care of the Lazarist Fathers, who celebrate Mass here every day. Two resident nuns also recite the Divine Office daily.
The small, T-shaped stone building consists of a bedroom (on the right) and a kitchen (on the left). The interior is kept simple and austere, fitted only with an altar, images of Mary and candles.
The spring that runs under the Virgin's 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.
The site is wheelchair accessible and provides clean public restrooms.
Festivals and Events
On August 15 (the Feast of the Assumption of Mary) each year, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim clergy conduct a service together at the shrine, one of the rare occasions this happens anywhere.
From both the Upper and Lower entrances to Ephesus, follow the signs to Meryemana, which is in a park and nature preserve.
Quick Facts on the House of the Virgin
|Names:||House of the Virgin|
|Categories:||shrines; healing sites; megalithic monuments|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||37.912285° N, 27.332724° E|
|Address:||Orman Yolu Park|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the House of the Virgin|
- Norbert C. Brockman, Encyclopedia of Sacred Places (1997).
- Bernard McDonagh, Blue Guide Turkey 3rd ed. (2001), 228.
- Frommer's Turkey.
- Wikipedia under GFDL.
Map of the House of the Virgin, Ephesus
Below is a location map and aerial view of the House of the Virgin. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.