Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mediterranean Cruise - Part 4 (Ephesus, Turkey)

Port of KuşadasıEphesus, Turkey is such a historical city that I am going to rely on the Internet to portray the details.

According to the New Testament, Ephesus became an important center for early Christianity from the 50s AD. Paul used it as a base and spent there more than two years on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:8, 19:10, 20:31). He became embroiled in a dispute with artisans, whose livelihood depended on selling the statuettes of Artemis in the Temple of Artemis (Acts 19:23–41). He wrote between 53 and 57 A.D. the letter 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (possibly from the "Paul tower" close to the harbor, where he was imprisoned for a short time). Later Paul wrote to the Christian community at Ephesus, according to tradition, while he was in prison in Rome (around 62 A.D.)

The Apostle John lived in Asia Minor (Anatolia) in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province. After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about 100 AD at a great age.

Ephesus was one of the seven cities addressed in Revelation (2:1–7), indicating that the church at Ephesus was still strong.

Two decades later, the church at Ephesus was still important enough to be addressed by a letter written by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians in the early 2nd century A.D., that begins with, "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestined before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory" (Letter to the Ephesians). The church at Ephesus had given their support for Ignatius, who was taken to Rome for execution.

As a non-Catholic, but attended a Catholic school, I understand the importance of the Virgin Mary. Obviously, she is important to us Baptists, but she has a different importance to Catholics. That being said, we had the opportunity to visit the house where the Virgin Mary is believed to have spent her last years. The story goes that before Jesus was crucified, he asked John to care for his mother. John took this request seriously and took Mary to this spot. She lived here until her Assumption into Heaven. The house has been refurbished, but the foundation is original. It was such a surreal experience for me to be here.

The story behind how this house was discovered goes like this:

In 1811, Emmerich, who had dedicated her life to God, was taken ill in the nunnery and had to keep her bed. She was hearing voices no one else did, and was having religious visions. On December 29, 1812, as Emmerich was praying in her bed with her hands stretched out, she was suddenly shaken by a divine force. Seized by a high fever, she became deep red in the face. Just at that moment, a bright light coming from above descended towards her and when it reached her the hands and the feet of the sick woman were suddenly covered with blood as if pierced by nails. The people around the bed were stunned with amazement. It was as if she had partaken of Christ's agony during the Crucifixion and had become a stigmatized nun. The doctors examining her were greatly astonished. They could not explain this within the science of medicine. A writer named C. Brentano began putting into writing the narrations that Emmerich, who getting gradually worse had become bedridden, revealed in trance after loosing consciousness in 1811.

Emmerich had seen in her visions the Virgin Mary leaving Jerusalem with St. John before the persecution of Christians had become worse and their coming to Ephesus. She had also seen that the house in Ephesus was on a mountain nearby and that the Christians who had settled there before lived in tents and caves. She said furthermore that the house of the Virgin Mary, a stone house, was built by St. John, that it was rectangular in plan with a round back wall and had an apse and a hearth. The room next to the apse was her bedroom and there was a stream of water running it. Emmerich went on as follows:

"After completing her third year here she had a great desire to go to Jerusalem. John and Peter took her there. She was taken so ill and lost so much weight in Jerusalem that everybody thought she was going to die and they began preparing a grave for her. When the grave was finished the Virgin Mary recovered. She was feeling strong enough to return to Ephesus. After returning to Ephesus, the Virgin Mary became very weak and at 64 years of age she died. The saints around her performed a funeral ceremony for her and put the coffin they had specially prepared into a cave about two kilometers away from the house".

The house of the Virgin was first discovered in 1881 by Abbe’ Gouyet, of Paris, through the diligent use of Anne-Catherine Emmerick’s descriptions. His discovery went unpublished and was generally discounted. Ten years later, in 1891, inspired by the detail of Emmerick’s accounts, a group of explorers under the leadership of the learned Father Jung of the Order of Lazarists, again followed her descriptions to relocate the Virgin Mary’s home. Catherine Emmerick had revealed that Mother Mary prepared her meals at a fireplace located in the center of the room and that spring water was present. Excavations by the explorers revealed the presence of the ashes and the spring water continues to flow to his day. Flowing water on a mountaintop in an otherwise arid countryside is itself a wonder. The explorers were amazed how closely their discoveries conformed with the description of Emmerick.

Mary's house was very, very small with basically only 2 tiny rooms. There were no pictures allowed inside. But here are some pictures of the outside and grounds.

Visitors leave special prayer requests on a prayer board located outside of Mary's house.The Ruins of Ephesus - If you want to visit a place where you can really get a feel for what life was like 2000 years ago during the glory-days of Greece and Rome, Ephesus, is the place. In terms of ruins, it's better than Rome itself.

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), which was destroyed by the Goths in 263. The emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected a new public bath. The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614. The importance of the city as a commercial center declined as the harbor slowly filled with silt from the river. Marble Way: This aptly-named street leads south from in front of the theater to the Brothel and Library of Celsus. West of it are the remains of the spacious Commercial Agora. The large, open space to the right (west) of the street, once surrounded by a colonnade and shops, was the commercial agora (3 BC) or marketplace, heart of Ephesus' business life.

Ever witnessed (or used) a Turkish toilet (also known as a squat toilet)? Well, the first time I saw (and used) one was in Italy a few years ago. Werid, I know. I honestly did not have any idea what this hole in the ground was but it was a bit of an emergency so it had to be used. (Was that too much information??)

Anyway, this was the start of the Turkish toilet. The Latrina, built in the first century A.D., are the public toilets of Ephesus. The toilets were ranged side by side with no partition between them. In the middle was a square pool. The floor was paved with mosaics. Talk about no privacy!

This is me "on the throne"!
Ephesus Library: Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus was the Roman governor of Asia Minor early in the 2nd century A.D.. In 110, after the governor's death, his son, Consul Gaius Julius Aquila, erected this library in his father's honor; as says an inscription in Latin and Greek on the side of the building's front staircase. Celsus was buried under the west side of the library, where he rests to this day. It is assumed that the construction of the library was completed in 117.

Place believed to be where Paul read this letter to the Ephesians.
The Roman Theater at Ephesus.
After visiting the ruins, we got to see how the famous Turkish rugs are made. Here is a bit of the demonstration.
Beautiful! And no, I did not buy another rug...the one I bought in Istanbul is still hurting my bank account!
This is the little creature Rosa left for us on this night!
I took a lot of pictures in Ephesus. I am working on uploading those to Shutterfly, along with the other cities. I will let you know when they are up, edited, and labeled!

Up next, Santorini, Greece.


  1. WOW. I loved this post, Tippa. I am Catholic and I've had many in my life who have instilled in me a love for the Virgin Mary. Many think we worship her like we do Jesus, and that's not true. I pray to her as I would to any of the saints, or to my Grandpa for that matter, to intercede on my behalf. My Grandma was a very devoted rosary prayer and it's one of my favorite forms of prayer.

    Thanks again for the photos and stories!

  2. jennie b.11:13 PM

    So great! What a tremendous history experience!!! Good to talk to you this morning- hope you enjoy your last week in Germany!

  3. I have been to Ephesus, and was thinking of "warning" you about the bath houses. glad you saw them! along with the library and other ruins.

  4. Anonymous12:46 AM

    This is awesome Tippa! I loved the history behind the Virgin Mary. I had no idea. I loved the pictures too. What an amazing experience you've had, thank you for sharing.
    How's our little Maxie?

  5. There is history, and then there is HISTORY. I love this! Its hard when you can't photograph it the way you want. And sadly, the other part that I relate to? The Turkish toilet, yes me too in Russia, in a college we were visiting... a grate in the floor was the only choice! BUT, I didn't know that is what they are called! LOL, look what I learned today!

    I cannot wait for SANTORINI pics!!!!

    Thanks for sharing!