September 25th, 2008 – by: Allen_Taylor
Virgin Mary statue
Today we were in Kusadasi, Turkey, our only stop on the Asian Contenient. We took a day trip to the city of Ephesus. En route, we made a stop by the place purported to be the house of he Virgin Mary, and afterwards visited the remains of St. John’s Basilica.
Be warned, some of you may find the next paragraph describing the house of the Virgin Mary to be somewhat offensive. Personally I just didn’t find the evidence to be there, but that’s my opinion. Okay, legal disclaimers aside, the story goes that an ageing nun had a vision (our tour guide operator used the word trance), began talking, and a priest sitting with her wrote down what she was saying.
Several years later after she had died, the priest sent several teams of other priests and nuns out searching for the site armed with the description of the location as it had been relayed by the “trancing nun” (the tour guide gave us her name, but I don’t recall). Low and behold, a team of nuns searching the location stumbled across an old foundation from where a building had once stood. Restorers have now built a building on the site of the old foundation (a red line long the exterior wall indicates the height of the foundation/wall as it was originally discovered on the site). A statue of a woman was also found near the old foundation and the assumption is that it is a statue of the Madonna herself. In 19XX (don’t remember the exact year) the Pope visited the site and declared that it is all true. The site is now complete with free-running holy water in fountains in an exterior wall where you can fill your own jar.
House of the Virgin Mary
I don't mean for this to be sacreligous or disrespectful; however, this mornings experience was just a bit on the cheesy side.
Okay, on to Ephesus. This was probably one of the more impressive sites seen on the trip. The tour took us from what was the gate of the city up on the hillside, down through the remains of the town to the site of the former sea port (silting over the thousands of years, has backed the shoreline up so that it’s now hard to see unless you are up on the side of the mountain). Entering the city gates, the first ruins you come upon are the old city governmental buildings, some shops and the site of the old temple.
There is also the smaller of two theaters high on the side of the hill. Proceeding down the road, you pass the Fountain of Domitian, and some upon the main commerce street of the city. Here were the businesses and homes of the cities more elite. They were built in similar style to what we saw on the island of Delos, where instead of windows, there was a central courtyard open to the sky that provided light and air circulation. The floors here were also highly decorated with mosaics. Also on the main road were the remains of a Roman Bath and the fountain of Hydreion. A marble carving of the goddess Nike was also discovered in this area. At the end of the street stands the front façade of the Library of Ephesus (it has been rebuilt from the ruins left lying on the ground from several earthquakes).
Turning and progressing towards the former harbor, you pass the larger of the two theaters, capable of seating 2500 people. This theater is the one that would have been used for sporting events, plays, and concerts (and if I understood the tour guide correctly, it is still used some today). The tour officially ended at the site of the old sea port, but of course, we still had to make our way through the hoards of souvenirs shops, snack shops, and street vendors to get to the parking lot. At its peak, Ephesus was home to approximately 25,000 people. The crowds today gave us a good look at what that must have been like.
The governmental center of Ephesus
St. John's grave was marked by a memorial and enclosed by a church of modest proportions in the 4th century.
In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian believed that a tomb dating from the 300s was John's, so he built a magnificent church on the site in the 500s dedicated to the saint. The traditional tomb of St. John, located under the main central dome, elevated the site to one of the most sacred sites in the Middle Ages and thousands made pilgrimage here. But with the decline in importance of Ephesus and after Arab raids, the basilica fell into ruins until the Seljuk Aydinoglu clan converted it into a mosque in 1330. The building was then completely destroyed in 1402 by Tamerlane's Mongol army.
The final event of the tour was a late lunch where we were entertained by the tradional Turkish whirling dervishes. I tried to shoot a short video, but wasn’t able to capture the leg work of these guys - pretty amazing.