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The Home of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus

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The House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus


In the first half of the 1st century, the early Christians were badly persecuted in Jerusalem and the situation was becoming increasingly worse for them. The persecution began when in AD 36 St. Stephen, a deacon of the Apostles, was stoned to death. Other events followed this. Agrippa I (Herodes) who proclaimed himself king in AD 41, in order to increase to esteem his supporters had for him, executed St. James, the brother of St. John, and imprisoned St. Peter. These events led to a great disturbance among Christians and they began to disperse into Judaea and Samaria.

From the cross in Golgotha, Jesus turned to his Mother and St. John, who were accompanying him, and entrusted them to each other saying "Mother, here is your son" to his mother and "Here is your Mother" to St. John. According to the Bible, after this, St. John took the mother of Jesus to his home to protect Her.

Sometime after these events, the twelve disciples of Jesus who had been the first to believe in Him went to different regions to spread Christianity and to enlighten the people. St. John's region of work was the Asian province of Anatolia (currently Turkey). His purpose was, on the one hand to move away from danger and on the other, while doing that, to spread Christianity to the West, to the Roman world, through the densely populated cities of West Anatolia. Ephesus was the most important of these.

The minutes of the Ecumenical Council of 431 indicate that St. John and the Virgin Mary stayed for a short time in the old building, a section of which is today under the Council Church (Originally called: Church of the Virgin Mary).

Christianity spread beyond the limits of Ephesus and in various cities of Anatolia places of worship were founded which were later called the "Seven Churches of Asia Minor" and Ephesus became their center.

Considering the fact that St. John remained in Ephesus until his death and that he was named the "Apostle of Asia", his importance in Ephesus of Asia (Aegean Region of Anatolia, in the Roman expression of that time and Turkey of today), the last wish of Jesus, and consequently the Virgin Mary's having remained with him can be more easily understood.

The historian Eusebius states that St. John had gone over for certain to Asia Minor at that time and had continued his work there.

We know that St. John had written his Gospel for the Ephesians and that it covers the problems of the Ephesian Christians, and the questions they asked him and his answers to these questions. He alludes only vaguely to the coming of the Virgin Mary to Ephesus. In spite of the many studies undertaken to this day, it has not been possible to bring to light the details relating to the life of the Virgin Mary.

St. Jerome (347-419), who had written about the geography of Jerusalem of the 4th century, does not make either any mention of a grave belonging to the Virgin Mary or of a monument built on her grave in Jerusalem or in its vicinity. Had there existed such a tomb, he, as a historian, would certainly have spoken about it.

In the lifetime of St. Jerome, the only church dedicated to Mary was in Ephesus.

In 431 the Third Ecumenical Council met in Ephesus in the one and only church of the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The purpose of the meeting of this council was to spectacularly proclaim the title of "Mother of God" applied to Mary (3) which was objected to by the then archbishop of Constantinople Nestorious.


Constantine the Great, adopted this religion in 313 A.D. and proclaimed Christianity the official religion, moved the capital of the empire and accordingly, the religious center to Byzantium (present Istanbul, Turkey).

Before Constantine, there had been no effectively centralized government to dominate the whole Church. The bishops, elected by the people in the early years, had gradually begun to acquire considerable power in their region. Constantine, resolved to count on Christianity for the future of the empire, spread it throughout the region.

Religious conflicts and separations into groups went on until the reign of Theodosius II (408-450) who, to settle the disputes, called the 3rd Ecumenical Council to Ephesus.

The Council met in the 2nd Century building called by the same name today [Council of Ephesus Basilica], and about two hundred religious authorities held discussions there for nearly three months.

It was recorded in the proceedings of the meeting that the Virgin Mary, on Her arrival at Ephesus, had stayed for sometime in a house which had stood at the site of this church and that she had ended Her life on Earth at Ephesus. And the church was dedicated to Her.

Excavation and restoration of the building are at present still going on. Every year on August 15th, believed to be the day of the Assumption, religious ceremonies are performed in this building to commemorate it.


The house of Virgin Mary is reached by the road leading from the Magnesia Gate to Mount Solmissos (Aladag). A round cistern that can be seen today in the small square 100 meters away from the house and an arched wall on the side facing the hill were the first remains to be discovered. The steps on the west side of the cistern are completely destroyed, only a part resembling a section of a pool is extant.

At the end of the road that goes on from the cistern, there is a small, domed church with a cross shaped plan. This is the building known as the House of the Virgin Mary.

What guided the scientists was the archaeologists' finding out that a part of the foundations of the chapel and some pieces of coal revealed in the excavations were from the 1st Century.

The interior of the house decorated with various gifts with great care but, at the same time, in a very simple and modest way seems to integrate with the Virgin Mary's personality of the same characteristics. It seems to awake in the visitor deep feeling of tranquility. Coming out of the house, one feels like enchanted by the depth and mystic beauty of the nature unrolling before one's eyes.

The certainty than in the period of persecution in Jerusalem St. John had made a long journey to Ephesus taking the Virgin Mary with him (See St. John's Gospel) and the discovery near the theater of Ephesus of the first church on the earth ascribed to the Virgin Mary, as restored in the 5th century, have led to the declaration of this house a place of pilgrimage by Pope Paul VI.


The belief that the Virgin Mary had spent her last days on Earth in a house in the vicinity of Ephesus, focused attention on a nun named Anna Katherina Emmerich who had lived in the late 18th century (1774-1820). The efforts to find the house were greatly influenced by her detailed description of the Virgin Mary's coming to Ephesus, her life and her last home there, and the characteristics of the city although she had never been to Ephesus.

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. 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 beneath it.

A French clergyman named Gouyet who after reading in 1880 C. Brentano's book "The Life of the Virgin Mary" containing the revelations of Anna Katherina Emmerich tried to prove these by his writings but was not successful. Gouyet decided to go Ephesus to see whether the house mentioned as belonging to the Virgin Mary fitted the description in the book or not. After a journey free from problems in contrast to his expectations, Gouyet saw the house, believed that it belonged to the Virgin Mary and sent his related report to the Bishopric authorities of Paris and even to Rome, but he did not receive the attention he had expected.

About ten years after this event, H. Jung, a Lazarist priest decided that it would be useful to see the house in its place. He organized a second research team with the collaboration of Eugene Poulin (4), a Lazarist priest who was the director of the French College of Izmir (Smyrna). The team consisting of two priests and two Catholic functionaries set out on 27 June 1891. Following the guidance of a local guide hired at Seçuk who knew the area well and the definition of a priest who said that he had examined the area previously and had found certain evidences in the Degirmerdere region.

The description in the revelations of Anna Katherina Emmerich mentioned an abandoned building at the skirt of a mountain with a holy spring nearby and a view over the ancient city of Ephesus and the sea. Towards noon on 29 June 1891, the team met a group of peasants working in a field on a slope lying further on from the Kirkinca village. They had no water left. Worn out with the heat and fatigue, they asked the peasants for water. Learning from them they could find water at a sacred fountain a little ahead, they reached the place described.

When, after satisfying their thirst and taking a rest, they examined the area around them they were struck with amazement. They had discovered a small place of worship with the roof fallen in and the walls in ruin standing among century old plane trees with a spring of clear water running beside it. And in the apse was standing a statue of the Virgin Mary with the hands broken off. Nowhere else in the region was there a scene fitting the description as perfectly as this one did. Certain that they had found the legendary house of the Virgin Mary, they returned to Izmir (Smyrna).

Meanwhile, the archbishop of Izmir Monsignor Timoni showed interest in the matter, and substantiated the situation by a duly signed document (History of Panaya Kapulu).

Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, visited the church of the Virgin Mary (The Council Church) in Ephesus, but he could not go up the Solmissos (Aladag) Mountain. Pope Paul VI's visited the house on 26 July 1967, prayed at its apse and presented Holy Gifts. Later on, Pope John Paul II's visited this holy place of pilgrimage among a big international crowd on 30 November 1979. His joining in the ceremonies conducted there, attracted the attention of the world to Ephesus and to the House of the Virgin Mary.

This place of pilgrimage visited by thousands of tourists every year, maintains its holiness for the Moslems as well as for the Christian world. People believing in the Holiness of the Virgin Mary came here specially to worship, and drinking from the water believed to be sacred they make wishes in the mystic and quiet atmosphere of Mount Aladag.

Commentary by The M+G+R Foundation

miguel de Portugal had the great blessing of visiting this most Holy site of Friday, August 1, 2003. Although for reasons beyond his control he was able to remain for only thirty minutes, it seems that God had made the necessary "arrangements" so that he could offer the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary keeling undisturbed at the apse of the building, before the image referenced to above, and which providentially ended just in time for the Angelus.

In spite of the fact that he has visited many Marian shrines, including Josna Gora (Keeper of the Our Lady of Czestochowa icon) in Poland, and having lived in the Sanctuary of Fatima, this thirty minutes visit to this most Holy site will be cherished amongst the most special and holy minutes of his life.

(1) Source for text: Hitit Color, "Virgin Mary", Istanbul 2000 - ISBN 975-7487-473. The image in the title is from other source.
(2) Details nonessential to the Catholic Faith or the central theme of the story related and its intent were not checked through independent means. Should a discrepancy or error be noted by one of our readers, please submit the information fully supported and we will gladly add it to this writing.
(3) The title of "Mother of God" applied to Mary
(4) Fr. Eugene Poulin writes in his journal "The Holy Virgin’s House: The True Story of Its Discovery" (ISBN# 975-7305-28-6):
"The Lord, who sees and organizes things, had taken care to put before us a soul in love with beauty and goodness, who was ready to give herself to everything good. A great soul, devoted, ardent, pious, and generous; the noble Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey. She was, God had chosen her to be, [as a manifestation of] the terrestrial Providence, like [it was also Providence who chose] Panaghia Mother! (*) For twelve years she has been charged of this valiant religious enterprise; she has never failed."
"Oh! How happy I am to give her all the respect she merits! Also, could these writings make known to posterity, long after us, to whom France, the Catholic church are in debt for [her care in relation to] Panaghia! The Lord gave me this opportunity to say loudly what I had in my heart for a long time, to acquit what I deemed to be a serious debt. It is done. Praise be to God!"
(*) Panaghia, in Medieval and Modern Greek, is one of the titles of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.
(5) "Presented Holy Gifts": apparently, the author means that Pope Paul VI celebrated a Mass.

Related Documents

An Index of Documents About the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary

En Español:  La Casa de la Virgen María en Éfeso

Published on September 8th, 2003 in Honor of the Virgin Mary's Birthday Celebration

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