Did these people really walk where I am standing?
Cleopatra, Marc Anthony, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, John the Apostle, Saint Paul?
Did they live here, on these same lush hillsides, amidst the olive groves and fig trees?
Did they feel the same warm breeze upon their face and gaze up at the same brilliant blue sky?
History ~ others’ interpretation of the past?
Faith ~ the cause of so much debate, so much pain, so much joy.
Archeology ~ proof?
Stand among the evidence, the tumbled down ruins of lost civilizations, the broken columns.
Listen, only the shrill twitter of bird song breaks the silence.
Listen again, hear the cheering, the applause.
Feel the brush of long robes as people hurry passed.
Sense the past
Decide for yourself
Chapel of The Virgin Mary
Whatever your beliefs, the fact that these people existed, Cleopatra, Marc Anthony, Mary, the mother of Jesus, John the Apostle and St Paul is hard to dispute. Cleopatra, with her then husband Marc Anthony, spent a winter in Ephesus and there is clear evidence that both St John and the Apostle Paul were in Ephesus. Whether this chapel stands on the foundations of the home of the Mother is Jesus is open to debate.
The house where the Virgin Mary is believed to have lived, now the Chapel of The Virgin Mary, is situated in the hills just a few miles above Ephesus. It has become an important pilgrimage site for thousands. This statue is on the road which leads to the chapel.
The chapel of the Virgin Mary was built on the original foundations of what is believed to be the house of the Virgin Mary. When you stand within the silence of its ancient, stone walls there is a sense of calm and serenity, maybe because of its immense age or maybe because it truly is somewhere divine……
It is known as fact that everything below the red line on the building’s exterior walls dates back to the 1st century, above it is mostly 4th and 7th century, the most recent restoration was in 1951.
Outside the chapel
Everything below the red line dates to the first century building, when The Virgin Mary lived.
In addition to what is written in the new testament of the Bible there are many references to the Virgin Mary (known as Maryam) in the Koran. Mohammed is said to have named Mary (Maryam), the mother of Jesus, ‘as the best woman to ever live’.
So did the Virgin Mary live here? It is generally believed that as Jesus was dying on the cross he entrusted the care of his mother to his disciple John and so when John travelled to Ephesus in about 44A.D.Mary came with him. There is clear evidence that John was in Asia from 67A.D. where he came to avoid persecution. He was exiled for his preaching to the island of Patmos in 81A.D. but returned in 95A.D. where he wrote his gospels and letters, he died in Ephesus, aged 100.
The Church of Mary
The Church of Mary, a short walk from the main centre of Ephesus, became renowned as the site of the 3rd Ecumenical Council (Mary as Mother of God) 431A.D and was rebuilt several times in the late Byzantine period. It is also known as the ‘Double Church’, as it is believed one aisle was dedicated to the Virgin and the other to St. John, and the ‘Council Church’ because the Council of Ephesus is thought to have been held here. By the 7th century the seat of the bishop was transferred to St John’s Basilica but the Church of Mary continued to be used well into the Middle Ages.
Following the great spread of Christianity, around 300A.D. Emperor Constantine built a great Basilica over John’s tomb. Its’ ruins are a few miles from Ephesus in present day Selcuk.
Entrance to the Basilica
An even more magnificent 6 domed church was later built over this by Emperor Justinian, 527-565A.D.
A model of Emperor Justinian’s Basilica
Both basilica’s centered their cruciform plan over the tomb of St John with 95-foot high large cupolas covering the main aisle. If fully restored it is believed that the basilica would be the 7th largest cathedral in the world
The Tomb of St John
The ruins of the Basilica today
The Baptismal Font
The Basilica of St John has been an important pilgrimage site for centuries. When Ephesus fell into Turkish hands in 1304 it was converted into a mosque and sadly leveled during a severe earthquake in 1365. Archeologists have been working on the restoration and preservation of this site since 1921.
To the north of the Basilica of St John, a 15 towered citadel sits like a crown over the small town of Selcuk. Inside there remains a mosque, cisterns, houses, a Turkish bath and a vaulted cistern which was originally part of a Byzantine basilica. It is thought that St John wrote on the site of the citadel and that the church was built in his memory.
This mosque, viewed here from the Basilica, is one of the most outstanding in the area, it dates to 1475. According to the inscription on the portal, Isa Bey was a scientist, the architect was Ali, son of the Damascene.
The Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis, (known as the Temple of Diana by the Romans) was one of the 7th wonders of the Ancient World, about four times as large as the Parthenon in Athens, described as the largest temple and building of antiquity in Athens. It was discovered by J.T Wood, a British railroad engineer, in 1869. It was originally constructed in marble as a cult center in the 8th century B.C. Over the centuries it was destroyed and rebuilt many times, some of its architectural features being used in both the Basilica of St John and the Isa Bey Mosque. Artemis was the goddess of Ephesus. This is all that remains of the temple today, as also seen from the Basilica.
In 1929 a depot was built in Selcuk to house all the finds from the area. In 1964 this became a museum which recently, in 2014, was superbly redesigned and renovated.
This statue, along with many others, is now in the incredible Selcuk Museum.
The bee, the symbol of Ephesus
The earliest coins in Ephesus were found in the Temple of Artemis and date from the 6th century B.C. The bee, the symbol of Ephesus and the stag the sacred animal of Artemis, were on most coins in Ephesus until the Roman Imperial period when they were replace by Emperors’ heads.
Dionysus the Goddess of wine
Dionysus was one of the most important Goddesses in Ephesus
The museum in Selcuk should not be missed on any trip to Ephesus, it is a wonderful treasure trove for many of the magnificent archeological discoveries in the area.