Some years ago my wife and I took a group from our Anglican church to Turkey, on pilgrimage.  Flying to Istanbul we spent two days exploring that magical city, including a boat trip on the Bosphorus, a visito the famous mosque, exploring underground water caverns and the Topkapi Palace home of the last Turkish emperor.

Then we flew down to Izmir in the south-west, in order to visit and explore what came to be the highlight of the whole trip - the ruined city of Ephesus. It was while St Paul was imprisoned there that he sent his first letter to the Corinthians and his letter to the Galatians. The oldest information about Ephesus goes back to the middle of the 7th century BC, but it came under the rule of Rome in 133BC. During the reign of Augustus it became the most important Asian province of Rome. Building activities started in 3BC and the famous aqueduct was built between 4-14 AD, making it the largest and most important city of the Roman Empire in Anatolia. Christianity spread fast, but the Romans, who were against Paul’s teachings, had him imprisoned there.

The site at Ephesus is huge and we spent a whole day exploring it. Work had begun on the building of The Grand Theatre between 41-54 AD and it was completed in 117AD. It has a stage, and is18 metres tall with three storeys and it held 24,500 seats. There is a high peripheral wall around the orchestra in order to protect the audience, since the fights of the gladiators with wild animals took place there! The city contained everything necessary for its inhabitants’ welfare - temples, library, public baths and much more.  Togetherness seemed to be encouraged, evidenced by the public latrines.  Here fifty people could be serviced at the same time, sitting side by side, gathering up the skirts of their togas a little bit. I treasure a photo of most of the group taking advantage of these facilities, although it was a dry run!

Just outside the city a footpath leads to the Church of the Virgin Mary.  The churches have a prominent place in history, due to the Councils that met there in 431 and 439. During one Council, on 22nd June, 431 AD, the Virgin Mary, Christ, and whether he was the son of God, were discussed.  The Council decided that Christ had one personality and two identities and that the Virgin Mary was really the Mother of God. It is the first church in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Re-capping a little, St John came to Ephesus in 42 AD with Mary, and inside the city  was built a church in his honour.  However, although all what we had seen so far was very impressive, it was the final part of our journey that was to provide the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Overlooking the ruined city are heavily wooded trees and our coach made the journey to the top of a small mountain.  It was a complete contrast to the city itself, quiet and peaceful, containing a small, stone built house where, tradition says, Mary and John lived together. Of course, there were the usual sellers of souvenirs, who were kept very much under control so as not to spoil the serenity of the place.

Adjacent to the small house was a Catholic church seating about 100 people, and I had the privilege of being allowed to celebrate the Anglican Eucharist with my group.  The privileges did not end there, as I was also allowed to use the chalice given by Pope Paul VI on his visit there in 1967.

There is no definitive history of Our Lady’s life after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  So often, the only way to find answers to our questions about holy people and places is to fall back on what ‘Tradition says’ I certainly  have no problem with going along with tradition at this holy place, along  with its associations with Mary, whom we hold so dear and to whom we pray daily.

 Below is a photograph of the small house where it is believed Our Lady spent her last years.  
The house of Mary at Ephesus