Last Home of Mother Mary
by Connie Brisson
I had never even heard of Meryemana before our Celebrity Reflection’s Mediterranean cruise in August 2014, which included two ports in Turkey – Istanbul and Kusadasi.
Kusadasi is a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast, 95 km south of İzmir. After finding a local private guide through a tourist agency there, we drove to Selcuk where we had a delicious traditional Turkish lunch at Selcuk Koftescisi restaurant (lamb, chicken and beef kofte, and a variety of salads).
Next we headed to Ephesus, an ancient city built in the 10th century BC. It’s famous for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We were astounded by the perfectly preserved temples, houses and theatres.
But the highlight of the day for me was Meryemana, The House of the Virgin Mary, high atop Mount Koressos. It is a place of pilgrimage visited by thousands every year, special for both Moslems and Christians. People believing in the holy qualities of the Virgin Mary come here to pray, drink water believed to be sacred and make wishes.
It’s believed that Mother Mary spent her last days there, according to a German Catholic nun named Anna Katherina Emmerich (1774–1824). Emmerich, a stigmatist, began to receive religious visions where she recounted the last days of the life of Jesus and details of the life of Mary, his mother.
In one vision she believed she was shown the final resting place of Mother Mary, high in the mountains at Ephesus. She said that the house of Mother Mary was built by St. John (following their exile from the holy land after Jesus’ crucifixion), that it was rectangular in shape, with a round back wall and had both an apse and a hearth. The room next to the apse was her bedroom and there was a stream of water running in it.
Clemens Brentano, a German poet and novelist, dedicated part of his life to transcribing Emmerich’s reported visions and recorded them in a book, Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary From the Visions of Anna Catherine Emmerich (1852).
After reading Brentano’s book, a French priest, Abbé Gouyet, decided to go to Ephesus to search for the house and in October 1881, he believed he found it. Then 10 years after, two Lazarist missionaries, Father Poulin and Father Jung, rediscovered the building in 1891, using the same source for a guide.
When we arrived at the stone building (said to be Mother Mary’s last home), I was surprised so see how small it was. There were signs saying we could not take photos inside and I could understand why once I was in the house. It did feel sacred and holy. It felt like a church.
Even though it was a very crowded, (just two tiny rooms are open to the public), I was compelled to stand inside for a very long time, quietly soaking in the energy (which I would describe almost like a tingling) that emanated in the space. It made me a bit weepy and I had this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness to Spirit for the serendipity that had brought me there that day.
Outside there is a ‘wishing wall’ where people can write their wishes or prayers to Mother Mary on a piece of paper or fabric and leave it, as well as a spot where one can light a candle while also making a wish or prayer. Lastly there is a place on one wall that has water (indigenous to the hill) believed to have miraculous powers of healing and fertility which people can drink from.
I love religious icons so I was delighted to find the most beautiful wooden icon there of Mother Mary. I was told that it was painted by a local priest. It reminded me of something one would find in a very old church. When I look at it now, I’m reminded of my experiences that day and what an unexpected blessing Meryemana was. It’s why I love to travel.
NOTE: This article was first published in May’s 2015 Summer issue in © Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine.