Ephesus was an important center for early Christianity. From 52-54 AD Paul lived in Ephesus working with a congregation and organized missionary activities. He wrote the letter 1 Corinthians here and several years later wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians while in prison in Roman. Also Revelations 1:1-7 indicate that the church at Ephesus was strong.
Jesus had instructed the apostle, John, to take care of his mother, Mary, after his death. A house located on the top of a mountain, 7km from Ephesus is where, it is believed, Mary may have spent the last days of her life. She preferred this remote place rather than living in a crowded city. In the 4th century AD a chapel was built on the original foundation of her house as a shrine. Pope Paul VI was the first pope to visit here in the 1960’s (around 1,500 years later) and in the 1980’s Pope John-Paul II declared it the Shrine of Virgin Mary as a pilgrimage place for Christians. It is also visited by Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of one of their prophets.
We drove up a windy road climbing in elevation for a good 20 minutes, the higher we got the better the views of the large fertile valley below. After parking we walked along a garden like path towards the chapel which was hidden in the greenery of the woods. As we approached the chapel, emotions started to flow out, we could feel that this was a very special and spiritual place.
In the afternoon we went to the tiny village of Sirince nestled in the hills near Ephesus. Settled by former Greek slaves in the 15th century, it has a population of 600 people. It is famous for its wine and the distinctive, Greek-inspired architecture of the houses. It is now a stop for tourists to have lunch and to walk through the village and shop.