EPHESUS & HOUSE OF VIRGIN MARY
The ancient city of Ephesus is unique in that it is the only megacity in the ancient world on which not a single structure was built. Ephesus is the most visited site in ancient Ionia, which is the most impressive ancient city of Turkey.
Built as a Greek city, Ephesus later was invaded by several tribes such as the Lydians and Persians. It was a prominent Roman city for a long time and ended its era as a Byzantine city. The majority of the artifacts visible on site are dated to the Roman Empire period. It is estimated that Ephesus has 1.5 million visitors every year.
Founded around 1000 BC, the city of Ephesus was a significant port, opening its gates to connect the East with the West (Asia and Europe). Its geographic position allowed Ephesus to develop as the most important political and commercial center of its time and to be the capital of Asia province during the Roman Empire period. The biggest temple of the Artemis cult based on Anatolia’s ancient mother goddess cult (Kybele) is also located at Ephesus. This temple is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
While walking down Curetes Street covered with nothing but marble, you will travel in time to the Roman period as your tourist guide keeps you informed. Do not forget to take a photograph of the mesmerizing view of the Celcus Library, the third largest library of ancient times, while standing at the Hercules Gate. Some of the major sites we visit include the Terrace Houses of the rich and mighty in the Roman Empire period, ancient public bathrooms, the main amphitheatre in which St. Paul also preached to his crowds, and the Temple of Hadrian.
Only 15% of Ephesus has been revealed, and excavations still continue. After the city tour of Ephesus, we will head to the House of Virgin Mary, which is 6 km away.
The House of the Virgin Mary is a church on Bülbüldağı Mountain in Selçuk. It is believed to be the last home of the Virgin Mary, where she spent her final days with St. John. This church is a pilgrimage site for Christians since it is believed to be located very near the burial site of Virgin Mary.
The House of the Virgin Mary is also considered to be holy by Muslims and visited by many looking for a remedy for the sick by making vows for prayers to come true. The reason that this church was named as the House of the Virgin Mary could be related to the decision of the Ecumenical Council that gathered in Ephesus in 431; they concluded that the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ as the son of God.
The House of the Virgin Mary was first visited by Pope Paul VI in 1967, then by Pope John Paul II in 1979, and by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. Therefore, the House is now considered a pilgrimage center for the Christian world and continues to gain importance due to an annual mass held in August for the occasion of the rite of the Assumption of Mary.
After Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary, you may want to visit local workshops of pottery and weaving that reflect the artistry derived from many cultures settled in Ephesus throughout the history.