By Yvonne Blackwood ~
With Easter only a few weeks away, it is a good time to write about some religious things I have come across during my globetrotting.
Turkey has been an amazing country to explore not only because of its incredible landscape and its fabulous culture, but also because several places mentioned in the New Testament are located there, including the seven churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Laodikeia, etc). In addition, there are a multiplicity of artifacts and archeological sites to see.
Twice while touring Turkey, I have had the pleasure of visiting a most unusual structure with a fascinating history. It is believed to be the house where Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last days on earth. Tucked away on Mt. Koressos or “Mount Nightingale”, 4.3 miles from Selcuk in Turkey, the little stone house has attracted millions of pilgrims and visitors.
If you are familiar with the Bible, you may recall that on the day of his crucifixion, Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother.” This was apparently a secret mission given to John to take care of Mary until she died. History shows that John took Mary to Ephesus, however, at the time it was dangerous for Christians, therefore it was necessary to lay low. The little house was built in the hills for her.
No one knew about the house for centuries, then it was discovered in a most peculiar way. A paralysed German nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich, who had never been to Ephesus, gave a detailed description and direction from reported visions she had on how to find the house. These instructions were followed by Abbé Julien Gouyet of France in 1881, and by two Lazarist missionaries from Izmir in that same year. The two search parties ended at the same spot, and the foundation of the house was rediscovered.
Today, the house called The Virgin Mary Shrine is venerated by both Christians and Muslims. It was not authenticated until after Pope Paul VI visited it in 1967. Since then both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have visited the site.