November 28, 2007


Virgin Mary's Resting Place View through a Window

The six hour bus ride from Bursa was taking me to the provincial capital Izmir, with a further 2 hour minibus drive to the coastal fishing village of Kusadasi. I was the guest of the gracious and hospitable Ali Acundas, staying at the Club Caravanserail Hotel an original 17th century Ottoman Caravanserail. Tonight its 8 ft thick stone walls were a refuge against the torrential downpour which seemed to be following me everywhere. The base of the 18 foot arched iron doors was pooled ankle deep in water and the steps to the second floor sleeping quarters were twice thick making it necessary to steady myself on the slippery stone. The two floor layout was typical for the caravansarail or roadside inns, since caravans had from 100-500 people tending to livestock each carrying around 300lbs of merchandise. With camels, yaks, and horses, safely stowed on the ground floor in arched stalls situated along the interior walls, the merchants climbed to the second floor and settled into massive rooms with 20 foot vaulted ceilings then heated by fireplaces, Similarly I prepared my camera’s for tomorrows visit to the best preserved Roman ruins in Eastern Mediterranean. Ephesus is important to the story because it was here that the upper class wore the silks which originated in China.

Wandering through Hadrian’s gate amongst the mausoleums, temples, baths and private homes I was virtually alone, except for the Japanese tourists clustered around their English speaking guide moving slowly down the marble walkways like a giant black beetle against the white ruins. By myself, I was free to imagine the elegant Roman men and women getting ready for the late afternoon performance held in the 25,000 seat Amphitheater. In the early days of the Silk Road the fabric was so precious only swatches were worn as decorations; ribbons sewn through hair or as embellishments on collar and cuff. A length cost as much as 300 denair or the price of one Roman soldier’s wages. Later, when the silk trade was fully developed, women wore garments made of the luxurious cloth. Creating somewhat of a scandal, the wearing of the clingy fabric revealed an almost naked body. Coincidently, this branding as decadent, coincided with the Roman Senate’s efforts to curtail society’s obsession with Silk as it was draining gold and nearly bankrupting the economy.
Perched high above all this decadence on the slopes of Mt. Koressos (Turkish: Bülbüldağı (Mountain of Nightingale) is the Virgin Mary’s last home and where she died. She was taken there by Saint John the Baptist whose basilica and tomb are nearby.
“ It is believed that after the crucifixion of Jesus, Saint John left Jerusalem and came to Ephesus, one of the biggest and safest cities of its time (capital of the Asia Minor province of the Roman Empire), and built a small hut for Virgin Mary just outside Ephesus in order to protect her from the non-Christian community of Ephesus.”

As I traveled farther away from the cosmopolitan centers of Istanbul, and jet set Aegean coast to regions with more traditional values I contemplated the notion of modesty in a pagan culture and Mary’s virginity with the rise of Christendom.
Tomorrow’s 17 hour bus ride would take me through Konya to Turkey’s southern province of Hatay or Old Antioch in biblical times. This was the Mediterranean terminus of the Silk Road and the site of the first Christian church established by Saint Peter.

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.