Did the Assumption of Mary take place in Jerusalem or Ephesus? This fascinating and in-depth article examines both claims.
This article by Mark Alessio first appeared in the July 2003 issue of The Angelus.
Where did the Assumption take place?
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII spoke these words, which kindled Catholic hearts around the world:
We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."
"Having completed the course of her earthly life." This phrase displays the prudence and precision employed in the definition of dogma. There was no pronouncement on the exact nature of Our Lady's death, or even as to whether she died at all. The common consensus holds that the Mother of God did, in fact, experience physical death, but we must be careful here to state unequivocally that the death of the "Immaculate Conception" was an event as unique as the Lady herself:
For Mary's death was to be neither an expiatory death [like that of Christ on Calvary] nor a death of punishment [like that of human beings born with original sin]. Moreover, under the cross she had been a sharer in the sufferings of Christ's death.... Her death came in the form of a dissolution resulting from the supernatural power of divine love, as a consuming of the natural vital strength by the languishing of her love, or by the violence of an ecstasy of love which separated the soul from the body, or because by her love Mary prevailed upon God not to maintain her bodily life any longer.
Hence, Mary's death appears as a holocaust of love. The sacrifice, made under the cross in the greatest spiritual sorrow, was thereby outwardly completed in a sweet and loving manner as in a slumber of love." (Rev. M. J. Scheeben, Mariology, Vol. II.)
"A slumber of love." The ancient Church knew well that the death of the Mother of God was a singular event, and they referred to this "slumber of love" as her Dormition, her "falling asleep," a clear indication that the close of the Virgin's earthly life was peaceful, unaccompanied by any anxiety or pain. On earth, Mary lived for Jesus and for Him only. When her earthly race was run, Mary's burning desire to be reunited forever with her Son found its fulfillment. "Now, since it is certain that the Son died of love and that the Mother died of the death of the Son," wrote St. Francis de Sales (+1622), "we must not doubt that the Mother died of love."
Over time, a question has arisen among those who have taken an interest in the Virgin's earthly life. Where was Our Lady living at the time of her death? Which city can claim the distinction of being the "site" of the Assumption? Perhaps the question may not resonate with deep theological implications, but, as brethren of Jesus and children of Mary ("the rest of her seed," as we are called by St. John in the Apocalypse), such an inquiry is only natural, and much to be expected. Often, as adults, we look back at photographs of our parents, savoring the images, the streets and houses they knew so well in their younger days.
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14). When you "boil down" Christianity—i.e., Roman Catholicism—you are left not with a set of abstract doctrines, propositions or rules. You are left with a Person: "But we preach Christ crucified" (I Cor. 1:23). The Incarnation brought mankind into a new, intimate relationship with God: "You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father)" (Rom. 8: 15). A happy (and providential) result of this new relationship was the formation of another intimate relationship: "Behold thy Mother" (Jn. 19:27).
When mankind ceases viewing God in the abstract, and recognizes Him as a Person with a face and a name, supernatural faith merges with natural affection. We recognize that the Sacraments are, quite literally, encounters with Christ, and a sharing in His Divine life. We become interested in details. We travel far to walk the roads He walked, or to stand in the room in which He offered the first Mass. We desire to know something of His Mother's life prior to the Annunciation. We gaze upon the Shroud of Turin and the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe with awe... but tinged with some of the purely natural joy we might feel while looking at a photograph of a loved one or a close friend.
The Blessed Virgin holds pride of place after Jesus Christ in the Catholic heart. We have combed the writings of the Church Fathers, of Doctors, Popes and Saints, as well as the Apocryphal books, in order to learn everything we can about her.
Of course, we already know all that we need to know, at least on this side of the veil, and this vast storehouse of knowledge is summed up in three small, but awe inspiring, words: Mother of God. Yet, as children of Mary, our curiosity regarding her days on earth is amply justified. In fact, a lack of such interest would be cause for concern; such apathy towards loved ones rarely bodes well. And so, we ponder the question: Which city can claim the honor of serving as the place where the Mother of God lay down her head for the last time, before her glorious Assumption?
There are two candidates for this honor, and each makes its case based upon fascinating evidence. Both Jerusalem and Ephesus vie for the honor of having served as Our Lady's home at the time she "completed the course of her earthly life." What follows is in no way a comprehensive overview of a topic that has engaged so many scholars of Scripture, archaeology, Church history, etc. It is merely a "layman's look" at some of the evidence. Hopefully, some small taste of the many colorful and intriguing aspects of this curious subject will come through.
The case for Jerusalem
The Apocryphal books point to Jerusalem as the place where Mary resided at the time of her Dormition. It is true that these texts lack canonical status and, therefore, need not necessarily be read as strictly historical accounts regarding all their particulars; often, their episodes are constructed to make theological points (both soundly orthodox and erroneous). In the year 495, Pope St. Gelasius I issued the Decretum Gelasianum, in which a number of early apocryphal texts were rejected, which "all the heresiarchs and their disciples, or the schismatics, have taught or written." However, this was certainly not a blanket condemnation of all non-canonical writings. Common sense tells us that the antiquity and the Eastern origins of the apocryphal corpus are factors not to be dismissed offhandedly—for they do, in fact, oftentimes reflect the most ancient traditions—and some of the information contained therein (such as the names of Our Lady's parents, or her presentation in the Temple as a small child) has been deemed worthy and reliable enough to enter into the Church's devotional and liturgical life.
The Transitus Mariae apocrypha, a body of texts treating specifically of the Dormition and Assumption, are believed to date back to the earliest centuries of the Catholic Faith:
Progress in regard to the Transitus was furthered by the discovery of unpublished texts which, in turn, pointed to much earlier dates of origin than had been hitherto accepted.... The whole story will eventually be placed earlier, probably in the second century possibly, if research can be linked with archaeological findings on Mary's tomb in Gethsemane, in the first–a daunting task.
All the earliest versions concur on the fact of Mary's bodily Assumption." (Fr. Michael O'Carroll, Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin)
In a Greek text designated Codex Vaticanus No. 1982, an ancient account which served as a prototype for later versions, Our Lord gives St. Peter instructions for the Virgin's interment: "Go out of the city to the left, and you will find a new tomb. There you will place the body." The city is Jerusalem; the destination is Gethsemane.
The Book of the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God (c. 6th century), attributed to Pseudo-Melito, mentions the Virgin's burial:
But the Apostles carrying Mary came into the place of the valley of Josaphat which the Lord had showed them, and laid her in a new tomb and shut the sepulcher.
Later, it says:
And behold, suddenly, while St. John was preaching at Ephesus on the Lord's day at the third hour, there was a great earthquake, and a cloud raised him up and took him out of sight of all and brought him before the door of the house where Mary was."
The supernatural translation of the Apostles from the lands in which they were evangelizing to Jerusalem, in order to be with Mary before her death, is a staple of the Transitus Mariae apocrypha. Pseudo-Melito wrote not only of St. John's being brought to Jerusalem, but of all the Apostles traveling by means of the same mystical conveyance:
And lo, suddenly by the commandment of God all the Apostles were lifted up on a cloud and caught away from the places where they were preaching and set down before the door of the house wherein Mary dwelt."
In these accounts, we find the Apostles gathered together to see Mary one last time and participate in her burial. The details preserved in these works, such as Our Lady's funeral procession, the singing of the heavenly choirs and the discovery of her empty tomb, would be encountered again and again in the songs and sacred art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In a scene from one of the oldest of these books, The Obsequies of the Holy Virgin (c. 5th century), St. Michael is commanded to draw the body of Mary into the clouds, and "Our Lord said to the Apostles that they should draw near to the clouds." In The Falling Asleep of Mary (c. 6th century), attributed to Pseudo-Evodius, Jesus invites everyone to return to Mary's tomb, "that you may see my Virgin Mother when I take her to the heavens with me, her soul being in her body, living as it was on earth with you."
There is certainly something quite appropriate about a reunion of Our Lady and the Apostles near the locale of Pentecost, where once they had gathered in anticipation of the Lord's promise. St. Gregory of Tours (+594), describing the close of Mary's earthly sojourn in the same words later used by Pope Pius XII, wrote:
Finally, when blessed Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was about to be called from this world, all the Apostles, coming from their different regions, gathered together in her house. When they heard that she was about to be taken up out of the world, they kept watch together with her." (Libri Miraculorum I)
A narrative known as the Euthymiaca Historia relates how the Emperor Marcian (450-457) and his wife, Pulcheria, sovereigns of Byzantium, desired to obtain the body of the Blessed Virgin for a church they were building in Constantinople. It is reported that they contacted Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, while he was attending the Council of Chalcedon (451), and made this request:
We hear that in Jerusalem is the first and remarkable church of the all-holy Mother of God, Mary ever virgin, in the place called Gethsemane, where the body that brought life was buried in a coffin. We want to have her remains brought here for the protection of the city."
According to the account, Juvenal replied that, on the third day after her burial, Mary's tomb was discovered to be empty save for her winding-sheets and "loculus" (bier or sarcophagus). Marcian and Pulcheria then asked for and received these relics.
St. Epiphanius (+403) was born in a village in Palestine and eventually founded a monastery there, before being named Bishop of Salamis (on the island of Crete). He was one of the first to write of the end of Our Lady's earthly life, though he did so with great reserve:
Scripture is simply silent, because of the greatness of the prodigy, in order not to strike the mind of man with excessive wonder. As far as I am concerned, I dare not speak out, but I maintain a meditative silence.... Nor do I say that she remained untouched by death, nor can I confirm whether she died." (Adversus Haereses)
St. Epiphanius also noted the following:
When John was sent on his voyage to Asia, no one says that he had the holy Virgin with him as a companion."
Some of the writings of the early Church Fathers point to Jerusalem and its environs as Our Lady's final resting place on earth. St. Isidore of Seville (+636), writing against the misguided belief that the "sword" prophesied by Simeon indicated a physical martyrdom of Mary, reported that "some say her tomb is to be found in the valley of Josaphat." In a homily on the Dormition, St. Germanus of Constantinople (+ c.733) related that, prior to Mary's Assumption into heaven,
the disciples of the Lord gathered with the throng in your presence, O Gethsemane, for the funeral of the Ever-Virgin Mary."
St. John Damascene (+ c.750) also described Our Lady's funeral procession: "Then they reached the most sacred Gethsemane... and thus the immaculate body was laid in the tomb."
An anonymous itinerary (c. 500), titled the Breviarius de Hierosolyma (i.e., a "survey" of Jerusalem), mentions a tomb of the Blessed Virgin located "near that pinnacle of the temple where Satan tempted Our Lord Jesus Christ."
There is also architectural "evidence" that Our Lady spent her final days in Jerusalem. The Church of St. Mary's Tomb is located in the Valley of Josaphat, near the city. It contains a chamber, said to have held Mary's sepulcher, which was originally hewn out of rock, over which a basilica had been erected by the Emperor Theodosius (379-395). The layout of the tomb corresponds to early apocryphal accounts.
This church was described in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a widely-read travelogue of the mid-14th century (whose audience would come to include both Leonardo DaVinci and Christopher Columbus):
Between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olivet is the Vale of Josaphat below the walls of the city, as I said earlier.... In the middle of the valley is a church of Our Lady, where her grave is. You must know that when Our Lady died she was 72 years old. Near her grave is the place where Our Lord forgave St. Peter all his sins.... Though this church now seems lower than the ground round about it, you should know that it was not like that when it was first built; but because of the crumbling of the walls of the city, which have fallen there, the ground-level round the church has risen, and so it is now higher than the church even though the church was on level ground when it was built."
In addition to this memorial of the Blessed Virgin's burial place, a church commemorating the site of the Dormition was erected on Mount Sion, near the site of the Cenacle.
The Transitus texts relate that Our Lady was forewarned of her approaching death by the Angel Gabriel, and a particularly striking example of the affinity between Mary and the Holy Land can be found in the belief that, prior to her Dormition, the Virgin visited those sites which had been sanctified by the Passion of her Son, a practice which would be mirrored by millions of her spiritual children as the "Stations of the Cross" devotion. St. Alphonsus Ligouri (+1787) was aware of this tradition, which he recorded in The Glories of Mary:
She then once more visited the holy places of Jerusalem, tenderly taking leave of them, and especially of Mount Calvary, where her beloved Son died. She then retired into her poor cottage, there to prepare for death."
It seems fitting for the Mother of Jesus to have "completed the course of her earthly life" in those environs where her Son died on the Cross, where the Holy Ghost descended on Pentecost, in the land which set the stage for the Annunciation and witnessed the first Martyr shed his blood for the love of Christ. It is appropriate that she who became the "Temple of God" in the most sublime manner imaginable spend her final days in the renowned city revered as the site of the Great Temple of the Israelites.
The Beloved Disciple's travels
In his History of the Church, composed sometime in the early 4th century, Eusebius (d. 340) recorded the destinations, chosen by lot, to which the Apostles were sent on their mission to spread the Gospel and baptize all nations:
Thomas, as tradition holds, received Parthia by lot; Andrew, Scythia; John, Asia, busying himself among the people there until he died at Ephesus."
When did St. John go to Asia Minor? Some say it was only after the death of St. Paul in the year 67. Others say that John arrived there before then, possibly around the year 40, not long after the martyrdom of St. Stephen and the increasing persecutions of the Catholic communities by Jewish officials. Our Lady would surely have accompanied John to Asia Minor, where she would have been able to live in peace. Could this early arrival of John and Mary at Ephesus explain why Sts. Paul and Timothy "were forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word of God in Asia" (Acts 16:6)?
In the year 54, St. Paul, "having passed through the upper parts, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples" (Acts 19:1). Could this account for the whereabouts of St. John from the time of the Ascension of Jesus, up until the Council of Jerusalem (c. 50)? When Paul went to Jerusalem after his conversion, approximately four years after the Resurrection of Christ, he met there only Peter and James:
I came to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days; but other of the Apostles I saw none, except James, the brother of the Lord." (Gal. 1:19)
The sojourn of St. John in Asia Minor is alluded to in various ancient texts. In his Adversus Haereses, St. Irenaeus (+202)—a pupil of St. Polycarp (+ c.156), who had been an actual hearer of St. John—recorded the fact that
John, the disciple of the Lord, who reclined at His bosom, also published a Gospel, while he was residing at Ephesus in Asia."
As for St. John having died in Ephesus, we read in a letter of St. Polycrates (+ c. 196), Bishop of Ephesus:
There is also John, who reclined at the bosom of the Lord, and who became a priest wearing the high priest's miter, and a witness and a teacher. He fell asleep at Ephesus."
A homily of St. Clement of Alexandria (+216) states that, after the death of the Roman Emperor Domitian in the year 96, the Apostle John
came back again to Ephesus from the island of Patmos [his place of exile, where he wrote the Apocalypse]; and upon being invited, he went even to the neighboring cities of the pagans, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, and there to ordain to the clerical estate such as were designated by the Spirit."
Eusebius wrote of the Beloved Disciple:
There is also John, who leaned on the breast of the Lord, and was a priest wearing the breastplate.... This one rests at Ephesus."
The case for Ephesus
The tradition marking Ephesus as the place where Our Lady spent her final days on earth is based on the assumption that Mary, entrusted by Our Lord to the care of St. John, accompanied him when he went to Asia Minor and remained there until her Dormition.
There is a document from the Council of Ephesus (431), the ecumenical council that had defended Mary's title, Theotokos ("Mother of God"), announcing the condemnation of the heretic Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, to the people of Constantinople. It states that Nestorius was present in Ephesus, "in which place John the Theologian and the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God.... [sic]." Unfortunately, the phrase is an "elliptical clause"—i.e., a clause in which some words have been left out, and whose meaning is determined by the pattern or logic of the entire sentence.
How, then, should the phrase be understood? Was Ephesus the place where John and Mary had resided for a time?... had died?... had been interred? At the very least, and following the pattern of the entire sentence, the phrase implies that Mary and John had at one time been present in Ephesus (just as Nestorius was present there). This, of course, implies that they had indeed lived there for a time. But could the Council Fathers have been referring to a church dedicated to the Beloved Disciple and the Blessed Virgin, which was present in Ephesus?
A basilica dedicated to Mary, the scene of the Council of Ephesus, had been built sometime around the year 350 and may be the first cathedral ever dedicated to the Mother of God. Since churches at that time were named for the martyr who had died or was interred there, it has been suggested that a church named for the Blessed Virgin indicated that she had died in Ephesus, even though the title could merely acknowledge the fact that she had lived there for a time. Also in the fourth century, a basilica dedicated to St. John had been erected over a monument already existing over his tomb. This became a pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville notes:
Then men pass by the isle of Patmos, where St. John the Evangelist wrote the Apocalypse. And you must know that when Our Lord died, John was 32 years of age, and he lived after the Passion of Christ 62 years. From Patmos men go to Ephesus, a fair city, near to the sea. And there St. John died, and was buried behind the altar in a tomb."
In a letter to the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus, Pope St. Celestine I (+432) wrote:
I exhort you, most blessed brethren, that love alone be regarded in which we ought to remain, according to the voice of John the Apostle whose relics we venerate in this city."
If intended to indicate a memorial, the ambiguous quote from the Council of Ephesus would appear to refer to one church dedicated to John and Mary (as in one dedicated to "Sts. Peter and Paul"), yet the two basilicas were distinct structures. Could the Council Fathers have meant, then, that both Our Lady and St. John died (and had been interred) in Ephesus?
The tradition that St. John lived and wrote in a small house in Ephesus is an ancient one. St. Gregory of Tours (+594) wrote: "On the summit of a mountain near Ephesus there are four walls without a roof. John lived within these walls." St. Irenaeus (+202), quoted above, stated that St. John "published a Gospel, while he was residing at Ephesus." Another piece of architectural "evidence" in support of the Ephesus tradition was discovered in the late 19th century on the slopes of Bulbul Dagi ("Nightingale Hill"), a plateau overlooking the city. This was the Panaya Kapulu ("Gate" or "House of the Most Holy One"), a small stone house in ruins alleged to be Mary's home. The internal layout of the house, as well as the surrounding topographical features, coincide very closely with descriptions found in the writings of the mystic, Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich (+1824), while objects unearthed during excavations suggested that a Christian colony had once existed there. Is this where St. John wrote his Gospel?
The Panaya Kapulu was discovered during the reign of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), who had planned to send a pontifical commission, headed by the renowned archaeologist, Orazio Marucchi, to Ephesus in order to study it. The pope's death brought an end to the project. In 1906, Pope St. Pius X (+1914) sent his apostolic blessing to all those who were engaged in research at the Panaya; he also granted a plenary indulgence to pilgrims visiting the spot. While the house had already been a pilgrimage site for people of various religious denominations since the end of the 19th century, in 1951 Pope Pius XII declared the Panaya an "official sanctuary" for Catholic pilgrims, and a plenary indulgence for pilgrims was reaffirmed by Pope John XXIII. Both Pope Paul VI (in 1967) and Pope John Paul II (in 1979) visited the Panaya Kapulu, the latter celebrating Mass there for tourists and pilgrims.
There also exists a tradition that St. Mary Magdalen accompanied St. John and Our Lady to Ephesus, and the legend of Magdalen's tomb claims that she was buried at the entrance to "the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers" in Ephesus. St. Gregory of Tours wrote of Ephesus, "In that city Mary Magdalen rests.... In it also are found the Seven Sleepers." The legend of these 'Sleepers' recounts how seven Christian princes, escaping from the persecutions of the Emperor Decius (249-251), sought refuge in a mountain cave, where they fell asleep. Discovered by the Emperor's soldiers, they were buried alive. Miraculously, they slept for two centuries, awoke to discover that the empire had become Christianized, and then died praising God.
While the presence of Mary Magdalen in Ephesus does not impact on the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin, it would point to the presence of Our Lady in Ephesus, for what else could have brought Magdalen there, other than the presence of John and the Blessed Mother? [A different tradition relates that Magdalen, along with Lazarus and other companions, after being put out to sea by the Jews with neither sails nor oars, arrived miraculously at Provence. They preached the Gospel in Gaul, and St. Mary Magdalen then retired to La Sainte-Baume. After her death, her body was laid in the oratory of St. Maximin.]
A "middle" path
Falling outside the sphere of doctrine, the location of the Blessed Virgin's final home on earth is a topic that may be pondered for the simple fact that it is an interesting one. Human nature turns us into amateur sleuths when we begin to analyze events of the past. Whether it is the accurate positioning of ships in the recreation of an historic naval battle, or the sifting of clues connected with a crime committed centuries ago, we often develop a strong, even emotional, bond with the particular era or personage we are studying. When that personage is the singular Mother of God, we are rewarded whenever we think of her, and no aspect of her life can ever be deemed unworthy of our time and consideration.
The Ephesus tradition is an exclusive one. It holds that once Our Lady set foot in Ephesus, she remained there until her Assumption. Some popes appeared to regard this scenario as a possibility. Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) wrote:
John amply fulfilled Christ's order; in every way he forever cared for Mary with a sense of duty; he had her live with him while he remained in Palestine, and he took her with him when he departed for Ephesus, where the Blessed Mother at length proceeded from this life into heaven." (Treatise on the Feast of the Assumption)
On July 23, 1847, Pope Pius IX wrote an Apostolic Letter in which he restored the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Rev. Bernard F. Deutsch, in a study titled Our Lady of Ephesus (published in 1965), perceives in this letter an indication of Pius's predilection for the Ephesus tradition:
The [Apostolic] letter did recall past glories, for example, the first council of the Apostles, the monuments, such as the Holy Sepulcher, but of Mary it said only that she lived in Jerusalem with the Apostles for a while. The simple fact that Pius did not mention any Marian shrine in his enumeration of the Jerusalem monuments might be insignificant in other circumstances. The fact that the Pope had mentioned Mary specifically in that context, however, and then failed to note her death or tomb, cannot be as easily dismissed."
Of interest also to proponents of the Ephesus tradition is an action taken by Pope Leo XIII in the year 1903 concerning the Diario Romano, a booklet published every year in Rome with papal authorization. It contains the routine of feasts, fasts and ecclesiastical functions to be observed in the city. What Leo did was to restore a certain annotation, which had at one time been removed, to the entry for August 15, the Feast of the Assumption: "At Ephesus... where according to the more probable opinion Mary died."
The Jerusalem tradition, on the other hand, is not exclusive in its particulars. Although it has in its favor the writings of the Fathers, Apocryphal texts and other ancient documents, in addition to its own archaeological evidence and the fittingness of Our Lady spending her last days near the scenes of her Son's Passion and Resurrection, yet it does not exclude Ephesus as a place forever hallowed by the footsteps of the Mother of God. However, it maintains that she did not remain there until her final day on earth, but eventually returned to the land of her birth. This scenario, a reasonable and very widely accepted one, was summarized by Fr. Orsini in his classic annotated biography of Mary:
The Virgin remained in Jerusalem, till the terrible persecution which broke out in the year 44 of Our Lord forced her to leave it with the Apostles. Her adopted son took her with him to Ephesus, whither she was followed by Magdalen.... Then, like a tired workman who seeks rest and shelter during the heat of the day, she began to sigh after the cool shade of the tree of life which grows near the throne of God, and for the living, sanctifying waters which flow beneath its branches.... They returned to Israel after an absence of several years." (Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Another one of Mary's "biographers," Rev. B. Rohner, wrote:
Many reliable writers of early Christianity inform us that the blessed Mother of God dwelt for a considerable time in Ephesus, a city in Asia Minor, where her adopted son and protector, St. John the Evangelist, was made bishop.... Yet she wished to see her own country once before leaving this world." (Life of the Blessed Virgin)
In The Mystical City of God, Ven. Mary of Agreda (+1665) stated that Our Lady spent a total of two and a half years in Ephesus. She tells us that, at the end of that time, while St. John attended to the travel arrangements and booked passage to Palestine,
most blessed Mary called together the women who were her acquaintances and disciples in Ephesus, in order to take leave of them and instruct them in what they must do to persevere in their holy faith."
At the beginning of this survey, the question was asked: "Which city can claim the honor of serving as the place where the Mother of God laid down her head for the last time, before her glorious Assumption?" The evidence presented on both sides draws us back into other lands and other times. And no wonder. How often throughout history has a simple inquiry sent explorers out into an entire world of clues, evidences, false trails, ever-receding horizons and sudden, unexpected successes?
Why should the question of Our Lady's final resting place on earth be any different? The aim of this article is simply to demonstrate, hopefully, that searching out the answer makes for an entertaining quest. The fact of Mary's Assumption is a Revealed Truth; the location of her final home on earth is not. Catholics are free to debate the matter and perhaps some day, when the grim shadows overhanging the Church at the "dawn of the new millennium" dissipate and the Faith is reborn in hearts and minds, we will find such quests satisfying and worthwhile once again.