The Discovery of Mary's House
Taken partially from the above book with permission of the publisher, Christian Classics/A Division of Thomas More Publishing, 2002.
Five years after the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the persecution of the early Catholic Church began in earnest and by A. D. 42 Saint Peter had been imprisoned and the Saint James Marytred by beheading. Meanwhile Saint John the Evangelist had taken the Blessed Virgin Mary to Ephesus; they were accompanied by St. Mary Magdalen and some of the disciples of Jesus. [p. 7] There St. John arranged for the construction of a house for Our Lady, in a most suitable place, on the summit of Nightingale Mountain One of Our Lady's glorious titles is "Morning Star." How fitting that she should spend her last days on this earth waiting to join her beloved Son in Heaven in a place named for the exquisite song bird, the nightingale which means "Night Song." The nightingale's song is the most melodic of the songs birds offer to their Creator and the bird itself, while resplendent and unequaled in this attribute, does not call attention to itself with bright-colored feathers; and unless at song, it remains very quiet, as if listening, and has been described as even "shy." [World Book Encylopedia, Book N-O, 1960 Edition, p. 327.]
Except for oral Tradition and the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, little is known of Our Lady's life at Ephesus. Part of this oral tradition comes from the Saints and the Pontiffs: For instance, St. Gregory of Tours made a pilgrimage to Ephesus, one of the twelve ancient cities of Asia Minor. The location of the city brought it wealth: it was located at the starting point of the great trade routes to the Orient. Saint Paul evangelized there for three years. Over time the city diminished in importance and for all practical purposes became extinct.
The site of Ephesus is near the mouth [several miles according to Anne Catherine Emmerich] of the Kucik [Kucuk Menderes] River in present-day Turkey. [World Book Encylopedia, Book E, 1960 Edition, pp. 262-263.]
When St. Gregory arrived at Nightingale Mountain he noted that St. John also lived there and that Mary's House was the center for the early Christians.
If you look left at the map you will find a selection, marked in black, showing the location of Ephesus and its relation to Smyrna [modern-day Izmir]. This part of the Turkish coast lies on the Aegean Sea, opposite the Greek Isles.
Long before the proclamation of the Dogma of the Assumption as explicit by definition, the Church always believed in Mary's Assumption, which was celebrated officially as a Feast Day on the 15th of August as early as the sixth century and prior to that time it was implicitly held by the faithful and the hierarchy "that she was assumed into Heaven."
That Christ's Revelation goes beyond the Bible, and that therefore there is a depository of Sacred Tradition, is traced to Biblical references. There is Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth: "You have done well in remembering me and in holding fast to the traditions just as I have handed them to you" [1 Cor. 11: 2]. There is also the second letter of John: "There is much more I have to tell you, but I do not intend to convey it by pen and ink. I hope rather to visit you and talk with you person to person, so that our joy may be full" [2 John: 12].
Tradition inevitably conveys to the Catholic Magisterium, and the Pope as the Church's principal authority figure and teacher, a pre-eminence in guiding the minds and hearts of the faithful. Tradition is intimately related to the progress or development of dogma, theology and the faith itself, and it is the living Magisterium that confirms specific points of Tradition. It was such in the time of the Fathers, from Clement of Rome, through Justin, to Caesarius of Arles; it was such in the time of the Doctors of the Church, from those of the early Church, like Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen, through those of the Middle Ages, including Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and John of the Cross; Pope Nicholas I in the ninth century placed the east as a Holy Day of Obligation. And it is such in modern times, from the conciliar declaration of infallibility in 1870 through the declaration of the Assumption of Mary as dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Using the latter by way of example: The dogmatic definition that Mary, the Mother of God, was assumed "body and soul, to Heavenly glory" derived not from whim or the personal piety of a particular pope. It derived rather from Tradition, the living belief of the Church, in this instance supplementing certain theological conclusions based on Mary's motherhood and Immaculate Conception. Tradition with respect to the Assumption reached back at least to the time of St. Gregory of Tours, who in the 6th century noted: "The Lord took Mary's holy body and conveyed it on a cloud to Paradise; there it was united with her soul, and glorified with the elect, it enjoys the eternal blessings that shall have no end." By the end of the 6th century, Mary's Assumption was a Feast observed throughout the universal Church. In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII used Tradition to assert the dogmatic character of that which the Feast commemorated, on November 1, 1950.  John Deedy, The Catholic Fact Book, Thomas More Press, 1986, pp. 148-149.
This is by way of prelude and background to the story of the finding of Mary's House in modern times. This magnificent story would have to wait for the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, who was the impetus to its finding. Before she died in 1824 the German poet, Clemens von Brentano, sat at her bedside over the course of her illness and recorded Anne Emmerich's visions. But they would wait for another fifty years to be published. In fact, it was not until 1880 when a copy of Brentano's work caught the attention of the French abbot, Fr. Julien Gouyet, who traveled to Ephesus by way of Smyrna, to find Our Lady's house, which he did. And still the story of this special house was little known as some Church authorities were not inspired to look into its authenticity. A decade later a Lazarist Father, Fr. Eugène Poulin of the Sacred Heart college in Smyrna, had occasion to read THE LIFE AND DOLORIOUS PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, by Emmerich, and which account moved him immensely, so much so that he acquired a copy of her LIFE OF THE HOLY VIRGIN, which gave a description of Our Lady's House, her death and burial. When told others of this book he was met with skepticism. So to find out what was the truth about Mary's House, an expedition which included Fr. Poulin, was put together. The house was discovered almost by chance, although with God there is no such thing as a "a coincidence" or "by chance." This is how it happened: On their search they became thirsty and asked some local women working in the field where they might get some water. The women told them to go to "the monastery" up the mountain. The "monastery" was but a pile of stones and some crude inhabited buildings and most importantly, a ruin in the center. Its construction and layout seemed to match the description given by Emmerich and recorded by von Brentano. So the party asked about burial sites nearby. One of the inhabitants knew of the location of the tomb of St. Mary Magdalene.
On the second ascent to the same place they found an old stone cistern which was connected to the house. It had Hebrew inscriptions. That evening they learned from the locals that for genertaions the people had a hbit of going to that spot to pray to the BlessedVirgin. Upon closer inspection Fr. Poulin was certain that the dimensions and floor plan corresponded to Emmerich's account.
Later it was discovered that the foundations of the House dated to the first century. The original soot-blackened hearthstones were discovered beneath the existing floor at the exact place where Sister Catherine said that a fireplace was located. The House was restored and soon a trickle of pilgrims began to go there.
The original House was shaped like a T. The upper left top was a cloakroom that was not restored. The upper right top was Mary’s bedroom. The front measures 20’ wide by 50’ deep and the attached bedroom measures 12’x12’.
Archbishop Timoni of Izmir convened a commission to investigate the discovery in the late nineteenth century. He composed a lengthy document that was signed by every member of the commission. It listed in detail the priests’ findings and showed how they conformed exactly to the descriptions of Catherine Emmerich's. The document concluded, “The ruins are truly the remains of the House inhabited by the Virgin Mary.” [The above five paragraphs collated from various accounts provided at web sites that have a page dedicated to either touring Ephesus or sponsored by those who have actually been there or known someone who has.]
"Mary's house . . . received an unexpected boost in this direction when in 1902 the first apparition of the Madonna was witnessed at the house, followed by the first reports of cures after drinking the water from the spring. Even the death in 1903 of Pope Leo XIII, a strong believer in the uniquely sacred character of Mary's house, didn't appear to damage its chances of worldwide recognition, because Leo's successor, Pope Pius X, was quick to send his congratulations and apostolic blessing to the Lazarist Fathers and to encourage them to continue their explorations. Indeed, in 1914 he granted a plenary indulgence for the remission of the sins of pilgrims to the shrine." [p. 75]
In 1981 Pope John Paul II formally moved for the cause for the canonization of Sister Catherine Emmerich.