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Selcuk - Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary, Isa Bey Mosque and Artemision

Selcuk - Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary, Isa Bey Mosque and Artemision
Selcuk has become one of the most visited tourist destinations within Turkey because of the nearby ancient city of Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary and 6th century Basilica of St. John the Apostle, which is claimed to be built on the site of the his tomb.

Settled in as early as 2000 BC it really only began to flourish during the 5th century AD after the nearby Ephesus harbour completely silted up and today retains much of its traditional Turkish culture. With its population of around 22,500 spread out beneath the ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill, Selçuk offers a variety of antiquities from many eras. Ayasoluk hill is the first point of call, entering the site via the Gate of Persecution, named by the Byzantines, as it once depicted a relief of Achilles in combat, which was mistakenly thought to represent a martyrdom of Christians at nearby Ephesus amphitheatre.
 St. John died around 100 AD and in the 6th century Emperor Justinian replaced the two earlier churches that sheltered his tomb, with a basilica worthy of the saint’s reputation and was one of the largest, most ornate Byzantine churches that existed until its destruction by Tamerlane Mongols in 1402. Various walls and colonnades have been rebuilt giving an idea of the grandeur of the original building.  

The Artemision

The Artemision or Sanctuary of Artemis is 200m along from the museum, whose scant remains once replaced three previous temples that were dedicated to Cybele (the Mother Goddess) was burnt down by the lunatic Herostratus in 356 BC and the immense Hellenistic replacement built there was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ransacked by Goths in 263 AD, the Byzantines removed the remaining masonry which left just one sole column amid the battered foundations.

İsa Bey Mosque

İsa Bey Mosque (camii) built in the late 14th century is one of Selcuk’s notable monuments and represents a shift from Selcuk to Ottoman styles. It is the oldest known example of a Turkish mosque with a courtyard. Built in 1375 under the direction of Emir of Aydin, columns and stones from the ruins of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis were incorporated into the building. It has stalactite vaulting over the entrance and a high gabled roof supported by Roman columns. Fine tile work can be seen in the south dome and it has two recently restored minarets.

House of the Virgin Mary

The House of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana in Turkish) located in a nature park between Ephesus and Selcuk, is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, visited by many tourists and pilgrims and is sacred to both Christians and Muslims. Christians believe Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the Resurrection of Christ and lived out her days there. The house itself dates from the 6th or 7th century but its foundations are much older and possibly date from the 1st century AD, the time of Mary.
Discovered in 1812 by Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, a German nun, who had never travelled from her home, saw the house in a vision, described it as a rectangular stone house with a fireplace, an apse and a round back wall. In 1891 Lazarist priests from Izmir ( Smyrna with its old name) set out to check her description of the place and found the building there matched what she had seen and was already the centre of worship by the Orthodox Greeks of Kirkince ( now the village of Sirince ) who named it the Chapel of Panayia Kapılı.
Since the papal visit there in 1967 and subsequent declaration of the site it is now a major Catholic pilgrimage destination, especially on August 15th for the “Feast of the Assumption”.  The house overlooks a beautiful wooded valley with two terraces and from where a natural spring flows.

Getting to House of Virgin Mary

The site can only be reached by car or taxi, or a long hour’s walk and it is best to combine a visit here when going to see Ephesus.


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