Visiting Meryemana, the Virgin Mary's Home

December 12, 2011
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Many of the stops on a Turkey and Greece cruise have more to do with ancient Greek and Roman cultures than Christianity, but Meryemana, or the House of the Virgin, is an exception.

Local legend tells that this house, now a church, is the place Mary fled to after Jesus was crucified. Located between Ephesus and Seljuk, Turkey, the site has received the official sanction of the Vatican and is now a popular site for religious pilgrims.

Christian religion teaches that Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the resurrection of Christ and lived the rest of her life there. However, even for visitors who are not religious, the history and the archaeology of the structure is fascinating.

Archaeologists have found that most of the building dates from the 6th or 7th century, but that its foundations may well date from the 1st century AD, the time of Mary. The house was "discovered" in 1812 by a German nun, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, who was an invalid confined to her bed. Emmerich awoke in a trance one night, and began describing visions she was having of the Virgin Mary and Apostle John traveling from Jerusalem to Ephesus. Though she had never traveled away from home, Emmerich described what is now known as the House of the Virgin in perfect detail — a rectangular stone structure that John had built for Mary, featuring a fireplace, an apse and a rounded back wall — to the writer Brentano, who recorded it by her bedside. The nun also added that Mary died at age 64 and was buried in a cave near her house.

Although researchers found a coffin near the site, it was empty. After the home was turned into a chapel, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II both visited the site and verified the authenticity of Emmerich's vision and the structure itself. Now, the main altar is where the kitchen was before, and the right wing is Mary's former bedroom. Jews, Christians and Muslims alike crowd to the site, which holds Mass at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday and has a number of springs that are said to heal ailments.

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