On the side of Bulbul Mountain, Turkey and 9 kilometers from the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, the small shrine of Mary is a place of pilgrimage for both Christians and Muslims. Tradition associates Mary with Ephesus because at the time of his death, Jesus put Mary in the care of John (John 19: 26-27) who then spent many years spreading Christianity in this region.At the beginning of the 19th century, Anne Catherine Emmerich, a bedridden Augustinian nun in Germany, reported a series of visions in which she recounted the last days of the life of Jesus, and details of the life of Mary, his mother.Emmerich was ill for a long period of time in the farming community of Dülmen but was known in Germany as a mystic and was visited by a number of notable figures.
An 18th century drawing of Anne Catherine Emmerich
One of Emmerich's visitors was the author Clemens Brentano who after a first visit stayed in Dülmen for five years to see Emmerich every day and transcribe the visions she reported. After Emmerich's death Brentano published a book based on his transcriptions of her reported visions, and a second book was published based on his notes after his own death
Following the book's publication, ruins of a house were discovered at the present site and declared to be the house where Mary had lived the final years of her life. Known as the Panaya Kapula ('Doorway to the Virgin'), the site has been a much venerated pilgrimage destination since the late 1880's. Archaeological excavation has revealed that in the 4th century AD a stone building combining house and grave had been built but the foundations are much earlier around 1 AD. Originally a two-story house, it consisted of an anteroom (where today candles are placed by pilgrims), a bedroom and praying room (a church area now) and a room with fireplace (now a chapel for Muslims). A front kitchen room had fallen into ruins and was restored in the 1940's. At the present time only the central part and a room on the right of the altar are open to visitors. At the exit of the building is the Well of Mary, where flows a salty water with curative properties.The Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the house, for lack of scientifically acceptable evidence. It has, however, from the blessing of the first pilgrimage by Pope Leo XIII in 1896, taken a positive attitude towards the site. Pope Pius XII, in 1951, following the definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, elevated the house to the status of a Holy Place, a privilege later made permanent by Pope John XXIII. The site is venerated by Muslims as well as Christians. Pilgrims drink from a spring under the house which is believed to have healing properties. A liturgical ceremony is held here every year on August 15 to commemorate the Assumption of Mary. Pope Paul VI visited the shrine on July 26, 1967, and Pope John Paul II on November 30, 1979. Pope Benedict XVI visited this shrine on November 29, 2006 during his four-day pastoral trip to Turkey. Each year on August 15, Muslims and Christians gather at the shrine to commemorate the Assumption of Mary.
Ann and I visted the shrine whilst visiting the Christian sites in Turkey a few years ago on a pilgrimage led by the then Bishop of Chichester who celebrated Mass here. Muslims visit this shrine to pray that they might be blessed with a child.