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The House of the Virgin Mary?

By Mark D. Roberts | Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Part 10 of series: Ancient Ephesus and the New Testament
Permalink for this post / Permalink for this series

Until recently, I have never given much thought to what happened to Mary, the mother of Jesus, after His death. I figured that she went to Jerusalem, where James, one of her other sons (or stepsons, if you prefer), was a prominent early Christian leader. A good bit of ancient tradition supports this hunch, as it turns out. (See, for example, the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on “The Blessed Virgin Mary.”)

It’s curious that Mary received little special attention among the early Christians. In fact, her life after Jesus’s death remains largely a mystery. But, I learned earlier this summer, many people believe that Mary spent her last days near Ephesus, and that’s where she died (or was taken up to heaven).

Most tours of ancient Ephesus include a side trip to the so-called House of the Virgin Mary. This sacred site lies several miles south of Ephesus, up on the top of a mountain. Unlike barren Ephesus, Mary’s house is hidden in a forest, where the temperatures are several degrees cooler and shade in ample. (The photo to the right shows part of Mary’s House.)

The evidence for Mary having spent her last days here is circumstantial and supernatural. The circumstantial evidence is this:

• Shortly before His death, Jesus entrusted His mother to the care of the Beloved Disciple (John 19:26-27).

• Christian tradition holds that the Beloved Disciple was John.

• Christian tradition also associates John with Ephesus, where he supposedly spent the latter part of his life. It is believed that he was buried there, and that his body used to lie under the Basilica of St. John (now in ruins, as you can see in the photo to the right).

• It is possible that John took Mary with him to Ephesus, perhaps because Jerusalem in the late first century A.D. was not hospitable for the mother of the controversial Messiah.

The supernatural evidence is this:

• Early in the 19th century, a German nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich claimed to have visions. Among these, she “saw” the house of the Virgin Mary, and described it in great detail. Her visions were ultimately published, and near the end of the 19th century a Catholic research team found the site described by Emmerich, though she had never seen it in person. (Emmerich’s writings on the death of Jesus had a profound influence on Mel Gibson and his The Passion of the Christ.)

Catholic tradition is divided on the final residence of Mary, though several popes have endorsed Mary’s House as a religious shrine. Less than a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI visited the site, honoring it with his presence and words, though not definitively declaring it to be Mary’s house.

The actual building on the site are not old enough to have been the actual dwelling of Mary. But it’s certainly possible that they were built in the place and design of the original buildings. A Turkish website has several Quicktime videos that allow you to take a virtual tour of the site and its buildings.

One of the more interesting features of Mary’s House is a prayer wall near the dwelling. Pilgrims come from all over the world to this place, and many offer special prayers. These prayers are written on small pieces of paper that are attached to the wall.

As it turns out, Christians are not the only ones who make pilgrimages to Mary’s House. Many Muslims come as well, since they honor Mary as the mother of the prophet Jesus. For this reason, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Mary’s House, he said, “From here in Ephesus, a city blessed by the presence of Mary Most Holy — who we know is loved and venerated also by Muslims - let us lift up to the Lord a special prayer for peace between peoples.”

Did Mary actually live near Ephesus? Was this her final dwelling? I don’t believe we have adequate historical grounds for deciding the question either way. But if you’re ever in Ephesus, it’s worth a trip up to Mary’s House, especially if it’s a hot day and you’d like some moments of relief.

Topics: Archeology and the Bible |

30 Responses to “The House of the Virgin Mary?”

  1. John Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 8:01 am

    Thank you…
    May God bless you for this wonderfull article..
    I hope to visit there one day….Have visited the Holy House of our ..Lady in Loretto Italy.
    Take care…….John

  2. Lorraine Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Have you heard of Sr. Marie DeMandat-Grancey, the Foundress of Mary’s House at Ephesus? You may enjoy reading my article “Why Sister Marie? Why Now?” which you may find on my blog Sr. Marie is a woman for our times; an interecessor for peace between Muslims and Christians.

  3. ROY S. TENN Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Very interesting. Our Lady is the only one who can bring peace between Muslims and Christians.

    She is revered by Muslims who have devoted a whole chapter to her in the Koran.

    Roy Tenn.

  4. Barbara CA Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Happy to see your article. I have visited Mary’s House and and personally felt it was a very holy place. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful carpets adorning the chapel which were hand made by Muslim women. Also I’ve read there was a Christian village until into the 20th century nearby. These villagers would make a pilgrimage to Mary’s house on great feast days like August 15. Their tradition from very ancient times was that this site was indeed the dwelling of Mary.

  5. Jessica Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Although the article was great, it started off by contradicting basic theology. James was not the son of Mary, or Her stepson. Jesus said to Mary, ‘woman behold your son, man behold your mother’.
    This was a directive given to humanity to take Mary as your mother and to Mary, that mankind was entrusted to her motherly love.
    God Bless

  6. margaret mckinley Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 11:51 am

    In the early 1900’s, archaeologists took the information provided by Anne Catherine Emmerich
    as to the layout of the surrounding area where
    Mary’s House is now located in the area of Ephesus and actually FOUND everything exactly as Anne Catherine described Our Lady’s house, right up to the presence of a streambed (small undoubtedly !) that ran through the main area of the house amidst the ruins, along with the remains of walls, firepit, ( or fireplace ) It’s extremely fascinating, as it certainly lends credibility to the visions of Anne Catherine, which, if you’ve read the books about her visions, are stunning in her reporting of the life of Christ. God bless…Tan Books has the 4 volume set. They’re the publisher. I believe.

  7. Antuan Erin Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Jessica you are talking about John that OUR LORD AND OUR SAVIOUR entrusted OUR MOTHER MARY to. OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST had a brother named James as well as Joses, Juda and Simon and sisters as you can see in Mark 6:3 ( James also after OUR LORD and SAVIOUR’s ascension was the head of the first counsil in 51 AD in Jerusalem.

  8. Roy Peterson Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Sorry Antuan, but Jesus had no brothers or sisters. In Aramic there is no direct translation for blood brothers and sisters.
    If He had siblings, where were they when he was on the cross ?
    Anyway, this was a great article… very interesting

  9. marion beaton Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Jesus had no siblings At that time they called everyone who shared the same faith, their brother or sister. Females were sister and males were brother

  10. Antuan Erin Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Dearest Roy,

    I am Suryani although our native language is Suryoyo or Syriac which is a dialect of Aramaic the language of OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, and even though I took lessons to learn Syriac or Aramaic and have a BIBLE at home that is Syriac or Aramaic, I cannot read the BIBLE in Aramaic. When I said brothers and sisters of course I do not know if they are bloodbrothers or sisters; however, Dearest Jessica said OUR LADY MOTHER MARY did not have a stepson which is not correct according to Mark 6:3 and there are other verses that I am not citing. This should be true for an original Aramaic or Syriac BIBLE and an English BIBLE as there might be differences in meaning in translation, there shouldn’t be any differences in truths. True they might not be bloodbrothers as I was talking to one Suryani Father who was my ex-mentor (now deceased may you have a long life) had told me that OUR LADY MOTHER’s Husband JOSEPH had children and was old when He married OUR LADY MOTHER MARY and I know the Father I am talking about reads in Aramaic as his mother tongue is Suryoyo or Aramaic. Of course this is not of first reference and you might want to disregard what I am saying but I had written my comment on the point that Dearest Jessica said OUR LADY MOTHER had no stepsons and Mark 6:3 or other verses that can be found in the HOLY BIBLE that state otherwise. And they don’t state as stepbrothers, they state as they are just brothers and sisters. I know from Father Esmer that Joseph had children before he married OUR LADY MOTHER MARY from Aramaic sources. Whether OUR LORD and OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST had bloodbrothers I don’t know and I had never thought about it as is, but thank you very much for making me think in that respect. I learned another point from you that this point may be inadequate in English or Turkish translations as I read the BIBLE in Turkish too. GOD BLESS. YOUR WORTHLESS SERVANT, ALWAYS IN MESSIAH OUR LORD AND OUR SAVIOUR, Antuan

  11. Jan wilhelm Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    The Blessed Mother’s life after the death of Jesus remained hidden because of her deep humility and because Jesus wished that it be so. Her prayers of intercession greatly helped the early church as it was it was beginning to form.
    Church tradition has always greatly honored her as can be known by the over abundance of tributes to her in the form of churches, works of art and private revelations by the saints throughout history. These writings of the saints are readily available to us today as many which have been out of print are being brought back now. Sophia Press is an excellent source. God bless to all who are interested in learning more about the mother of Jesus.Jesus gave her to all humanity and she cares for us just as she cared for Jesus.

  12. Diane Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Galatians 1:19 says: “I did not meet any other apostle except James, the brother of the Lord,” but when one looks up the names of the fathers of the two Apostles named James, one does not find the name of St. Joseph. The fathers of the two Apostles by that name were Zebedee and Alphaeus (Matthew 10:2). There are other scriptures telling who the “brothers and sisters” (cousins) of the Lord were, and who their mothers and fathers were.

    The Catholic Church and all the other ancient churches have always taught that the Virgin Mary was the New Testament Ark of the Covenant because her womb contained the Divine Son of God, Jesus. This is referred toin Revelations, Chapters 11 and 12. Therefore, no other human being was worthy of coming forth from her womb since it once contained God Incarnate. Each Christian should ask himself/herself, “Am I worhty of coming forth from the same womb as Jesus?” The answer is, “Of course not.”

  13. Mark Roberts Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Friends, I’m staying neutral on the precise relationship of James to Mary, whether full son or stepson. James is called Jesus’s brother, to be sure, but the original language doesn’t allow us to know the precise sense of this language. As you know, Christians differ on things like whether Mary had additional children after Jesus or not. For those of us who base things on Scripture, we need to admit that we simply don’t have answers to some of our questions. Peace.

  14. twin Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Could this be true?I read that at Ephesus The home of Our Lady,supposely, the first carved station of The Cross were found. Our Lady had them carved into trees from her memory of The Passion and She prayed daily there. Just wondering.

  15. Ray Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Hey Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I read the 4 volumes on City of God by Mary of Agreada and recommend these to anyone who is interested to knowing about the life of Mary and her death. I remain yours in Christ through Mary Ray

  16. Paul N Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Like Mary Ray said, if you want to know about Mary, you have to read our Blessed Mothers autobiography that was first written in 1650 by Mary of Agreda. I have been reading it for 22 years. Six Popes have issued decrees on it to be true. This book has guided the Popes up to and including John II, who quoted from it many times. As for the house in Ephesus, the one she stayed in was at least 5 or more rooms because 4 or more people stayed there and the house now only has two rooms. Mary only stayed there form 1/5/40AD to 7/6/42. The Blessed Virgin Mary died in the Cenacle in Jerusalem on August 13th, 55AD. She was 69 years 11 months and 5 or 6 days old. Christ has requested that all should read this book to many seers. TAN books has just reprinted this book this year. This book can save your soul.

  17. Paul N Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    I forgot to give the name of the book, its called the “Mystical City Of God”.

  18. Anita Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    The background of the Fatima apparition site is also further proof that the Blessed Virgin has been assigned with the duty to bring all peoples together in peace. Fatima is a Muslim name, she was the daughter of Mohammed. Obviously, the fact that Muslims are also coming to honor her here at Ephesus is further proof that God will make peace through her intercession. YES !!!!!!

  19. Peter M P Corry Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    We will all come to know the truth about Mary`s Life, when She tells the visionaries at Medjugorje
    to print the book anout Her life Story.

    She ( Mary ) has been appearing nearly every today from 24 June 1981-Today.

    Begging a world that does not believe in God, to believe, and to open our cold hearts to God. And when you see the whole as it is today ? Do we have to ask why, She comes because:

    Some 20-40 million people have been there, to see the sun spin, dance, and move in the sky.
    To have their heart changed, their life changed, to find The God who became as One with His people.

    This Mother loves Her Son, Jesus, and wants you to come to know His Love, His Mercy, His Heart.

    It is true, MEDJUGORJE, is a place where Heaven has opened it`s doors, to Humanity.

  20. Sean Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Good article. One thing I’d like to point out is that Mary did not have a son or stepson named James.

    There is a popular trend that culminated with an alleged 1999 discovery of an ossuary in Jerusalem containing the inscription ‘James the brother of Jesus’. A jetsetting trend erupted climaxing with a popular book entitled ‘The Brother of Jesus’. Supposed ‘experts, biblical scholars and historians’ came crawling out of the woodwork looking for their bit of fame and reporting their revisionist history (citing only one passage from Scripture as their text proof) that Jesus had a ‘brother’ pointing to the ossuary as their long awaited missing link of evidence.

    The ossuary turned out to be a complete hoax. The ‘archeologist’ fabricated the box in his apartment room and presented a phony story that fooled the world. All for his and others’ fame and glory. For a little while the world was tripping over themselves trying to get a signed copy of the book and a glimpse at the ‘brave archeologist willing to lay his credibility on the line to dismantle centuries of Church teaching’.

    Following the exposure of this fraud, his credibility was indeed completely shot as books were frantically pulled off the racks and the story dropped like a rock. The damage, however was done as evidenced by many who cite the false claim that James was the brother of the Lord.

    This error has surfaced throughout history with the same result, the truth prevailing and error discredited. In the bible, James, the ‘brother’ of Jesus hails from another father Alpheus. This can be found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The other James is the son of Zebedee along with his brother John. This is found throughout the four gospel accounts.

    Hope this helps. Sean.

  21. Neal Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    The Blessed Virgin Mary came to Ephesus with Apostle John to escape the dangers in Jerusalem.
    John found or build a house for Mary. Near her house, Mary prayed the Way of the Cross daily.

    One time Mary went back to Jerusalem to help the Apostles who were having difficulties with Church’s matters. While in Jerusalem, Mary prayed the Way of the Cross daily by following her son’s steps to a site of a Crucifixion.

    Near the end of Mary’s life, she went back and settled just outside of Jerusalem in a home. She died there at the presence of the Apostles.

    The Apostles and some people held a funeral procession along a road to a tomb. They carried Mary on a wooden boards and the people nearby paid her respect. During the procession, some people heard the angels sings and smelled fragrant of roses as Mary’s body passed by. Mary’s body was placed in a tomb with flowers and shortly after, the light and the angels came upon the tomb and took Mary’s body into heaven.

    In heaven, Mary’s body joined her heavenly spirit and was crowned as a heavenly queen by God the Father, the son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The angels and the saints praised her during the crowning.

    The sources came from the visions of few Catholic saints including Catherine Emmerich.

  22. SK Says:
    August 22nd, 2007 at 2:04 am

    Mother Mary had no other children except Jesus, so Jesus had no brothers or sisters, These were cousins who had different mothers & fathers. Mary therefore is Immaculate and remained Virgin forever. That is why we still call her Virgin Mother.

  23. Antuan Erin Says:
    August 22nd, 2007 at 5:29 am

    Matthew 12: 46-50: Jesus’ Mother and Brethren
    “46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” ( King James Version

    John 7: 3-5: “3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. 4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. 5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.” ( King James Version

  24. TwoCentsWorth Says:
    August 22nd, 2007 at 6:18 am

    May I light a candle so that everyone in the “room” may see the light? The Blessed Virgin Mary was always a virgin. Apostle St.James, the Greater or Elder, the “brother of the Lord” and his brother, Apostle St. John, were sons of Zebedee and could not be the sons of Virgin Mary (cf.Matt 10:3, Mark 3:17). Apostle James, the Less, and St. Jude are brothers, and are the sons of Alphaeus, in all the lists of the Apostles, and could not be siblings of Jesus. Author of Epistle of Apostle St.Jude refers to himself as brother of Apostle St.James and are sons of Alphaeus, not sons of the Virgin Mary. John 19:25-26, women at the cross, Mary, Mother of Jesus and His Mother’s sister (cousin), Mary who is the same as mother of James and Joseph in Matt 13:55 and Mark 6:3. The brothers and sisters of Jesus were not siblings, but related as cousins through His aunt, Mary and uncle, Alphaeus. In the semitic tribes, there are no distinctions between siblings and cousins, all are “brothers” and “sisters”. Space does not permit an analysis of the Scriptures which demonstrate the Blessed Virgin Mary was regarded in St. Luke’s Gospel and Revelation 11 and 12, as the Ark of the New Covenant. Blessed Virgin Mary is also referred to as “Woman” by Jesus her Son, in the Cana Wedding and as He hung on the Cross. There are no sons or daughters ever directly attributed to Mary who was a perpetual virgin. All the Scriptures should be studied, not taken out of context, to “see” the whole picture. That is why St. Peter said in his epistle, there should be no private interpretation of Scripture. Amen.

  25. TwoCentsWorth Says:
    August 22nd, 2007 at 9:43 am

    I thank you Pastor Roberts for the opportunity to make a comment on your blog on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Especially so this day which Catholic Christians celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Please permit me to make an additional comment on Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin. The Mother of Jesus was regarded as the Ark of the New Covenant by the first Christians and particularly, the written testimony of the Gospel of St. Luke. When reading St. Luke’s Infancy Narratives, we must be absolutely certain that when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and conceived Jesus, the Son of God, Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, in her blessed womb, the Blessed Mother became the Dwelling, the Holy of Holies of the Most High God for nine months. And, let us recall when King David was moving the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, Uzzah was struck dead when he touched it (2 Sam 6:6). How much more sacred, the Mother of Jesus Christ, Ark of the New Covenant, in whom the Divine Son of God dwelled for nine months to receive His human nature? After St. Joseph, husband of Mary, learned she conceived Jesus, the Son of God, by the Holy Spirit, how could he have dared to violate, “touch,” the Ark of the New Covenant, the Dwelling of the Most High God? A reading of the St. Luke’s narrative of Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, demonstrates the same elements as King David’s moving the Ark of the Covenant from Obededom’s house to the Temple in Jerusalem. We may rest assured, the Blessed Mother of Jesus Christ, Ark of the New Covenant was ever a virgin. Praise God!

  26. Antuan Erin Says:
    August 22nd, 2007 at 10:39 am




  27. Sean Says:
    August 23rd, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Greetings. The term brother is used in scripture because there is no equivalence to our english word for ‘cousin, niece, or nephew’. For example we all know Lot was Abraham’s nephew yet the Old Testament referred to Lot as a brother of Abraham. The same with the ‘brothers’ of Jesus. These were cousins not true brothers as we know them in english terms.

    Hope this helps.

  28. marion beaton Says:
    August 29th, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    two cents worth, you are right on

  29. Antuan Erin Says:
    September 1st, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Today I talked to Father Yusuf Sag who reads the BIBLE in Syriac and Aramaic and I asked a friend of mine whose native language is Syriac/Aramaic to check Mark 6:3 and John 7:3. Father Yusuf Sag said this is a difference in beliefs of Churches even though we believe and always say that the Church is one and that there is one Church, but the Catholic Church believes that St. Joseph did not have any children and Our Blessed Mother Mary did not have any children save Christ Jesus Our Lord. But the Orthodox Church (as he is telling me and as Father Esmer Bilge had told me before) has a different belief.

    I am a baptised Catholic but for the past two years have been attending an Orthodox Church more frequently. But I believe the differences in belief concerning my posting was because of different individuals attending different Churches and different Churches might be having different beliefs.

    A friend of mine can read the Bible in Syriac or Aramaic and he told me today that the text appears as “brothers” and “sisters” like its translation in English and no other meaning can be inferred from the text while Father Yusuf Sag told me again today that in Mosaic Law cousins were also called “brothers” and “sisters”.

    If different Churches draw conclusions from old documents within the Churches, a discussion among Churches have to be made I believe.

    But as a personal belief, if no definite proof exists of “cousin” relationship or a “brotherhood” or “sisterhood” relationship, I believe it is the person’s own faith. Noone can say to the other unless there is definite proof “This is the truth”. It is the person’s faith. It is between GOD and each individual. Furthermore even if there is proof, which is worldly, what is “proof” in the eye of GOD is another question. Does proof always give us the truth. Proof is an element of logic. In faith there isn’t mostly logic, like the extreme case of miracles. The further debate would be between science and religion and we know where we are speaking.

    What is important I believe is faith. It is that person’s own belief. Even if a point is proven via deduction or via documents if a decision on the reliability of documents have been made, a pure person will have a much more noble and purer and praiseworthy belief for his or her fear of GOD and his or her view of sacredness of OUR LORD, OUR BLESSED MOTHER MARY, and ST. JOSEPH and his or her faith would be much more pleasing to GOD and his or her rewards I believe would be billion-fold.



  30. joy Says:
    October 10th, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I recently visited Mary’s home in Ephesus. I was wondering if anyone knows about the sculpture of her in her home? What happened to her hands?

    Thanks for your info.


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