Amongst the Apostles, Saint John’s relationship with Christ was unique. Known as the “Beloved Apostle”, it was Saint John who rested his head on Christ’s chest at the Last Supper. It was Saint John who alone remained with Christ to the foot of the Cross when all the other Apostles fled. And it was to Saint John that our Lord entrusted the care of his mother after His crucifixion.
In the Gospel of Saint John account of the Crucifixion, we are told:
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
According to tradition, after the Resurrection and Ascension, Saint John did indeed take Our Lady into his own home, eventually living in Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey.
In the 19th century, what is held to be the actual home that Mary and Saint John lived in was identified in a vision of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich that read:
“Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it. … Mary’s dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem, some three and half hours from Ephesus. This hill slopes steeply towards Ephesus; the city, as one approaches it from the south-east seems to lie on rising ground… Narrow paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some half hour’s journey.”
Emmerich also described the details of the house: that it was built with rectangular stones, that the windows were high up near the flat roof and that it consisted of two parts with a hearth at the center of the house. She further described the location of the doors, the shape of the chimney, etc
Based on the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, a French priest, Abbé Julien Gouyet went looking for a house that matched the description. After a strenuous three days’ search in the mountain area surrounding the ancient ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey, Abbé Julien Gouyet, stumbled upon the decrepit remains of a small stone house.
It was on the 18th of October 1881 that the humble priest, following the clues he had once read from a peculiar book, found the treasure-house he had been searching for. Local villagers who carried with them a bequest of stories, tradition and legends going back and back to the early Christians of Ephesus called the house Panaya Kapulu, Doorway to the Virgin.
Catholic pilgrims subsequently began visiting the house based, and it became a site of pilgrimage for those with a devotion to Our Lady and Saint John.
While the Catholic Church has never pronounced in favor or against the authenticity of the house, it nevertheless maintains a steady flow of pilgrimage since its discovery. The shrine has merited several papal Apostolic Blessings and visits from several popes, the earliest pilgrimage coming from Pope Leo XIII in 1896, and the most recent in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.