The tradition according to which The Holy Virgin died at Ephesus should impress itself to the attention of every believer and scholar. Pope Benedict XIV had adopted it and preached publicly "that Our Lady died at Ephesus whence she took her flight into Heaven". The renowned orientalist Charles Lenormant had declared since 1850 "that this tradition was in perfect harmony with the conclusions to which the inductions of history lead.
Whereas the Jerusalem tradition which is opposed to it is based only on apocryphal narratives of the seventh century, that of Ephesus being older has the advantage of being able to invoke in its favour arguments drawn from the Holy Scripture and History.
St John in Asia before the year 48
The silence observed in The Acts of The Apostles regarding St. John from the year 37 to the year 48-the very formal declaration of the historian Eusebius on the subject of the expulsion of the Apostles from Jerusalem and their departure between 37 and 42 - the unanimous tradition which makes of Asia Minor the field of St. John's apostolic activity and the testimony of the great Tertullianus (2nd century) according to which the Apostle came early to Asia - all these positive facts allow us te establish with likelihood that St. John came to Asia before the year 48.
The Holy Virgin who had been left to St. John's care by Our Lord Himself, could not have been left in the midst of the violent persecution which was raging in Jerusalem at the time, the chief victims of which were St. Steven in the year 37 and St James the Apostle, brother of St John, in the year 42. St Peter himself was imprisoned. Our Lady and St John must have left the deicide town for Asia in 37 or at the latest in 42. St John must have kept her with him (in sua) in Ephesus or thereabout. It is in these parts that The Holy Virgin must have died at the age of 64 according to the date generally admitted. In support of this most likely conclusion one may mention the four following facts.
The existence at Ephesus as early as the 3rd century of the first large christian Church dedicated to St Mary and where the Council of 431 was held, proves that Our Lady had either lived or died at Ephesus, since Church laws then prevalent did not allow the building of Churches to venerate Saints except in places where they had lived or died.
The letter of the Council Fathers to the Clergy of Constantinople clearly mentions Our Lady Theotocos and the Apostle St John the theologian, in a sentence which though eliptical leaves no doubt as to the obvious meaning which it discloses. Our Lady and St John had been present at Ephesus. The latter's tomb was there. Ephesus is also remarkable for being Our Lady's City.
The Syrian Jacobite Church have always followed the Ephesian tradition since the 8th century. They confirmed their belief in the 12th and 13th century and still continue to the present day to keep it alive.
In the 17th and 18th century the Ephesus Tradition was taken up and exposed in all its strength by first rate historians, and the learned Pope Benedict XIV immediately echoed it.
The local tradition of the people of Kirkindje (Serince) is full of meaning. These last descendants of the Ephesian Christians who had taken refuge in the mountains during the Seldjukian invasion in the 11th century numbered, in 1892, over 4000 gathered in the large village of Kirkindje (Serince) and its surroundings. According to a secular tradition faithfully handed down from father to son they came every year to a small chapel on the Bulbul Dag and called in the country Panaya Kapulu, a name partly Greek and partly Turkish meaning Gate or House of Our Lady, to celebrate on the 15th August, in spite of the contrary belief of the Orthodox Church, the Passing Away of Our Lady.
These declarations, which they made in 1892, were carefully checked by an inquiry commission.
The existence, at the top of a hill in a solitary and almost inaccessible spot, of a Byzantine Chapel the ancient character of which the archaeologists have recognised in later years proves, together with the Council Basilica and two other small chapels the ruins of which are to be seen at the foot of the Coressus, that in several parts of Ephesus and throughout centuries was preserved the remembrance of the death and Assumption of Our Lady.
Discovering of the House of Virgin Mary
- Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824)
Our Lady's House was in an awful state after so many centuries of existence and neglect. The archways had collapsed and the walls had fallen in. In 1864. an inhabitant of Kirkindje had undertaken rough repairs. They were not of the happiest. In spite of the fact that they had been done over with plaster, the walls could not resist against the ravages and injury of time. In 1892 and the following years, a roof was built to protect from the weather what was still standing.
Discovering of the House of Virgin Mary
Very soon, not too credulous Father Yung, a Lazarist, and ended after a search lasting many days by discovering the spot called in the district Panaya Kapulu. After a careful study made on the spot during two days, and following two separate scientific expeditions lasting two weeks, no room was left for any doubt. Sceptics and incredulous were convinced.
The site and ruins they had before their eyes agreed in every respect with the detailed description given by Catherine Emmerich, the venerable seer who, nailed by her ailment to her bed in Dulmen in Rhenish Prussia, had never seen or known them. The numerous visitors and scientists who have since followed each other to Panaya have also ascertained this consistency.
The Revelations of Catherine Emmerich did not create Panaya. They merely helped to discover and make it known. They allowed very ancient ruins in favour of which testified already a historical tradition and a local tradition many centuries old, to be identified with the House of The Holy Virgin.
One was therefore faced with wonderful and providential facts which could not be ignored. The Lazarist Superior, Monsieur Pou-lin, spared no effort in making known the happy events to the Catholic World. Through his so numerous and so well documentated works he rightly deserves to be called the Apostle and Animator of Panaya Kapulu.
On 31st January 1892, thanks to the generosity of Sister Marie de Mandat Grancey, Superior of the Hospital, the Lazarist fathers became the owners and administrators of the place. In 1892, after a long and severe canonical inquiry, Mgr Timoni, Archbishop of Smyrna, granted permission to celebrate religious ceremonies in this chapel. The pilgrimages did not start until 1896 and followed regularly to 1914.
Our Lady's House was in an awful state after so many centuries of existence and neglect. The archways had collapsed and the walls had fallen in.
In 1864. an inhabitant of Kirkindje had undertaken rough repairs. They were not of the happiest. In spite of the fact that they had been done over with plaster, the walls could not resist against the ravages and injury of time. In 1892 and the following years, a roof was built to protect from the weather what was still standing. Very soon however, 36 years of forced neglect consecutive to wars and troubled times, increased the ramshackle state of the ruin. The roof was gone and more walls had fallen in. These precious relics might have disappeared altogether but for a providential and unexpected event which permitted their restoration.
Restorations of the House of The Holy Virgin
In April 1951, the Turkish government desirous to turn to full value the treasures of pagan and Christian antiquity with which the country is so rich, had the generous initiative of undertaking in the space of three months a fine motoring road from Selcuk to the top of the Holy Hill. Then, on May 6th 1951, thanks to the efforts of the Archbishopric, was founded officially the "Panaya Society,, (Panaya Kapulu Dernegi) which had as object the restoration and upkeep of the House and Chapel as well as the laying out of the surroundings so as to allow the organisation of larger pilgrimages. Work was started and satisfactorily finished thanks to the generosity of the faithful of Smyrna and of numerous foreign donors.
The work of restoration was revised and approved by a Commission comprising the directors of the Smyrna and Ephesus Museums, the chief architect of the Municipality, the Director for Touring and other state officials.
Some particularities must be mentioned. The access paths were retraced in a straight line, the esplanade was considerably enlarged, and a circular path now surrounds Our Lady s House.
The more recent walls and arches of lighter colour are easily distinguished from the darker ancient walls which were respected and are visible one foot above the ground. For the new parts, 7th century building materials, provided by the Museums Administration, were used as far as possible. As much interiorly as exteriorly, the walls have been shed of their parget to give to the building the ancient and rustic appearance demanded by public opinion.
For the same reason, the paving was made with pieces of ancient marble the irregular lines of which remind us of the remains of octogonal shaped flagging which were found buried in the ground in 1898.
In short, a special point was made of preserving as much as possible the lines and general appearance of the building. If after so many centuries of ravages and alterations some unimportant detail has disappeared, one can still find not only all the important features pointed out by the Seer, but also a number of complementary details which confirm the exactitude of her descriptions. One may judge by the following quotations borrowed from "The Life of Our Lady,, (Abbe de Cazales Tequi - 15th edition P. 372 - 383!) and put here in inverted comas and dashes so as to distinguish them better from the commentary.
" Description of the House of Virgin Mary, Ephesus"
St John took Mary in the vicinity of Ephesus four or six years after the Ascension. The house which he had had built in advance was the only stone one,,. "The front and two sides were square and the rear curved or octogonal,,: "It comprised two separate parts divided by a central hearth with light partitions on each side of it„. The entrance hall must have been added in the 7th century, as it was not bound to the central block.
"The front part,, corresponds to that part of the house which was "transformed into a chapel after Our Lady's death,,. This chapel thus prolonged the oratory at the end. It was then probably that the chimney of the central hearth as well as the partitions disappeared so as to allow larger dimensions to the central building. Judging by the building materials used the latter was restored in the 7th century. Its foundations, however, are older and date back from the 1st century. Its walls are raised above the rest of the house. It is therefore a compound work of restoration raised on the very spot of the original commemorative chapel.
Below the great modern arch which marks the junction between the Byzantine chapel and the oratory, dark square flagstones show the spot Where the "hearth,, or chimney used to be and where in 1898 were found buried 50 cms underground 2 cu. ms. of debris blackened only on one side by the hearth fire, fragments of the old octogonal flagging as well as hardened ashes, which, between the years 1901 and 1903, brought about wonderful cures,
"The end of this first quarter, isolated from the rest by a curtain, formed Our Lady's oratory and ended in a semi-circle,, (On the outside by an octogon). The octogonal base was found in 1894 3 ft deep behind the house. "In this round recess was to be found the Virgin's Oratory, where the Apostles and early Christias, after Our Lady's death, came to pray and offer the Holy Sacrifice,,. This therefore, seemed to be the ideal spot for errecting in Carrara and Ephesian marble a modest modern altar needed for the practice of religion. On each side of the altar may be seen two small and ancient niches where articles of worship were placed.
The cast iron statue which is now over the altar is a modern reproduction of Our Lady of The Miraculous Medal. It was found mutilated at the bottom of the gully after the war. In 1896 it stood on a stone pedestal at the entrance to the esplanade.
"To the left of the Oratory was to be found another room in which the Holy Virgin put her linen and furniture,,. On the left under the ancient arcade, the wall which has been built marks the old entrance to the former Vestiary. This part collapsed long ago, without leaving any traces. The spring of water which feeds the large pond and which runs beneath the foundations of the Vestiary must have destroyed and carried away everything.
"On the right side of this Oratory, leaning against a niche- formed by the wall, was Our Lady's Bedroom. The couch leaning against the wall was in the shape of a box 1 ft deep. Its breadth and length were quite ordinary. The ceiling was made in wattling and formed a four piece vault,,.
On entering this room, the floor of which is on a lower level, one can see on the left corner an ancient small niche. On the left wall a large round niche forms the rear of an altar made of a simple marble table stood against the wall". Against the southern wall, opposite the entrance, on an elevation 50 cms above the ground, is the spot of Our Lady's couch. Formerly, the right side wall was pierced by a small door which is now walled. On the outside, the secular plane tree which had grown at the corner of the room had obstructed and demolished it.
In the centre of the room, under the darker flagstones, passes a stream which must have sprung shortly after 1896. It empties into a special pond below the esplanade and large pond. It is The Spring of Our Lady "Hazreti Meryem Ana Suyu,,. The large pond of the upper terrace is fed by a larger spring which also comes from the mountain which may now be called "Meryem Dagi„.
As may be seen, after the restoration, Our Lady's House has lost nothing of its essential ancient characteristics described by the Seer with so much precision.
As to the site and place, it is sufficient to read the following extracts to understand the material harmony of the description with the immutable reality.
"About three or three and a half leagues (15Kms) from Ephesus on the left side of the road as one comes from Jerusalem,, (from south to north and to the right if going from north to south) "On a mountain which is steep on the Ephesus side ( the mass of Bulbuldag ) which is reached by narrow paths south of Ephesus (ancient road followed by Our Lady, long, painful, tiring, it is no longer used at present) From its summit one sees Ephesus on one side, the sea on the other, and the sea is nearer (4Kms) than it is from Ephesus,, (8Kms or 12 Kms via Kusadasi) The house is at an altitude of 460 ms.
"A short distance behind the house (less than 10 metres) high rocks (20 to 30 metres) lead to the summit of the mountain (Bulbul-dag 525 m.) (It is known by this name since the discovery of the house whereas on Austrian maps, this name is given to the Coressus 387 m.„ From this height one sees Ephesus and the sea. It is the only place whence one may see Ephesus and the sea at the same time with its numerous islands,, (Starting with Samos the numerous summits of which give the illusion of several islands).
"One finds in the neighbourhood a castle inhabited by a king or a dethroned prince,,. At a certain distance along the Aziziye (Qam-lik) road following the ravine and on the right when travelling south east, one can find this castle. Its debris from a hillok where important remains can be seen and about which, for about 40m., extend the remains of a wall 80cm thick. The stone blocks remind those of the ancient wall of Lysimachus (3rdC B. C.)
At a short distance from the castle, may be seen a platform or "terrace,, (600m long 300m wide) described by the Seer. The access she shows is along the ancient way coming from below in a south easterly direction. This steep road is now abandoned.
"Before the outbreak, in all its violence, of the persecution (in Jerusalem), some Christian families and several holy women came to settle down in this quiet and solitary land. They settled in the numerous grottoes which are found in the mountain and surroundings and lived there as in hermitages, away from one another,,.
- Discoveries ( 1898 - 1899) - Coins – Sarcophagi
In 1898 - 99, during the excavations made for the foundations of the first house, were discovered
- On the left of the House of Virgin Mary,
Water pipes and reserve jars. The pipes carried the water to a large pond on the site of which now is the house. The edge of this pond is still visible behind the house, it keeps traces of a colonade which has disap¬peared.
- Behind the House of Virgin Mary,
3m away from the pond, 8 arcades in a row, of which only the 3rd and 4th are left. Below the two last ones, 80 cm away from the vault, two tombs closed by three flagstones in terra cota contained a whole skeleton each, the head looking towards the chapel. In their hands were found medals of Constant and Justinian.
In the debris were found funeral lamps, seven more medals one of which was of Constantine and a terracota mould for Sacred Hosts marked with corn and grapes. Behind the arcades, remains of solid masonry, terraces one of which is paved in black and white cubes in mosaic and ruins of houses.
- In front of the House of Virgin Mary,
Three tombs, two hewn in the rock, the third lined with marble.
A large quantity of bones. In the surroundings a large number of tombs cut out in the rock and containing lacrimatory phials. The discovery of all these objects shows clearly that this hill was formerly an inhabited centre and had a considerable christian colony.
The Holy Virgin had traced at Panaya a Way of The Cross composed of 12 stations reminding those of Jerusalem. She herself had measured the steps that separated one from the other and had it marked on stones upon which could be seen engraved in hebrew caracters the name of the place evoked. The stations were like small gardens or ponds "Big enough to allow two persons to walk around the stone,,.
It is thought that several of these ancient stations have been found all along the mountain, towards the north, behind the house, on a line parallel to the Ephesus Road and terminating on a hillock between the Ephesus and Arvaia (Eroglu) Roads.
Tomb of the Virgin Mary
According to Catherine Emmerich, Our Lady lived for nine years in Ephesus. Mean while, she had gone to Jerusalem amd returned. She died at Ephesus at the age of 64.
Our Lady's tomb was half a league away from the House, in a small valley, at the last station of the Way of The Cross, which reminded the Mount of Olives. Next to it a knoll pictured the Calvary. Beyond this height, on the other side from the commemorative stone, in a recess, was the Holy Sepulchre and still further d own the tomb itself. It has been possible to pick out the first and second hills as well as the general direction of the tomb, but that is all.
The Seer adds: "the entrance to the Sepulchre was- closed and hidden entirely by a hedge made of shrubs at the foot of which they let a small neighbouring stream go by. I think that this tomb exists underground and that it will reappear one day,,.
We can but expect the time of discovery through God's Grace and favourable circumstances. May the faithful by their fervent prayers, hasten the hour of this much desired discovery.
Pilgrimages To Mary's House
Pilgrimages started in 1896 had to be interrupted between the yars 1914 and 1918. They were started since on a larger scale and they will increase in importance in the future. They have been approved by His Holiness Pope Leon XIII, the Blessed Pius X and Pope Pius XII, the Pope of The Assumption. ( In 1967 Pope Paul VI, 1979 Pope John Paul II, 2006 Pope Benedict XVI, became a Pilgrim by visiting the House of Virgin Mary.
Popes became a Pilgrim by visiting the House of Virgin Mary
Numerous privileges have been granted to the chapel of Panaya. During pilgrimages every priest may say the votive Mass of the Assumption.