Christian tradition has long held that the Virgin Mary spent her last days in the hills above ancient Ephesus, under the tender care of her son’s inner circle of followers.  In the mid-nineteenth century, the recorded visions of a nun some decades before—Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824)—led to the discovery of the Virgin’s home atop Bülbül Daǧi, nine kilometers from Ephesus.  Today the House of the Virgin Mary stands enveloped in green, creating a most mesmerizing atmosphere.  A typical example of Roman domestic architecture, the house is built entirely of stone.  In the fourth century CE, a church was built to combine both the house and the Virgin’s burial place.  Visited by thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year from across the Christian and Muslim worlds, the site’s holy water and tranquility are believed to have healing powers.  Pope Paul VI became the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit this site in the 1960s.  Visiting the site two decades later, in the 1980s, Pope John Paul II declared the Shrine of the Virgin Mary an official pilgrimage destination for Christians.  On August 15th each year, a ceremony is organized in the area to commemorate the Assumption of Mary.

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