Mary's House

The Life of The

Anne Catherine Emmerich

Translated by

With supplementary notes by

With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1954


The Death of the Blessed Virgin at Ephesus
Part 1

 The following communications, made in different years, generally in the middle of August before the Feast of the Assumption, are here arranged in chronological order.

After Our Lord's Ascension Mary lived for three years on Mount Sion, for three years in Bethany, and for nine years in Ephesus, whither St. John took her soon after the Jews had set Lazarus and his sisters adrift upon the sea. [1]

    Mary did not live in Ephesus itself, but in the country near it where several women who were her close friends had settled. Mary's dwelling was on a hill to the left of the road from Jerusalem . . . This hill slopes steeply towards Ephesus; the city as one approaches it from the southeast seems to lie on rising ground immediately before one, but seems to change its place as one draws nearer. Great avenues lead up to the city, and the ground under the trees is covered with yellow fruit. Narrow paths lead southwards to a hill near the top of which is an uneven plateau, some half-hour's journey in circumference, overgrown, like the hill itself, with wild trees and bushes. It was on this plateau that the Jewish settlers had made their home. It is a very lonely place, but has many fertile and pleasant slopes as well as rock-caves, clean and dry and surrounded by patches of sand. It is wild but not desolate, and scattered about it are a number of trees, pyramid-shaped, with big shady branches below and smooth trunks.


    John had had a house built for the Blessed Virgin . . . Christian families and holy women had already settled here, some in caves in the earth or in the rocks, fitted out with light woodwork to make dwellings, and some in fragile huts or tents. They had come here to escape violent persecution. Their dwellings were like hermits' cells, for they used as their refuges what nature offered them.  . . . Mary's house was the only one built of stone. A little way behind it was the summit of the rocky hill from which one could see over the trees and hills to Ephesus and the sea with its many islands.  . . . Near here is a castle inhabited by a king who seems to have been deposed. John visited him often and ended by converting him. This place later became a bishop's see. 

Between the Blessed Virgin's dwelling and Ephesus runs a little stream which winds about in a very singular way.

Mary's house was built of rectangular stones, rounded or pointed at the back; the windows were high up near the flat roof. The house was divided into two compartments by the hearth in the center of it. The fireplace was on the floor opposite the door; it was sunk into the ground beside a wall which rose in steps on each side of it up to the ceiling. In the center of this wall a deep channel, like the half of a chimney, carried the smoke up to escape by an opening in the roof. I saw a sloping copper funnel projecting above the roof over this opening. The front part of the house was divided from the room behind the fireplace by light movable wicker screens on each side of the hearth. In this front part, the walls of which were rather rough and also blackened by smoke, I saw little cells on both sides, shut in by wicker screens fastened together. If this part of the house was needed as one large room, these screens, which did not nearly reach to the ceiling, were taken apart and put aside. These cells were used as bedrooms for Mary's maidservant and for other women who came to visit her. To the right and left of the hearth, doors led into the back part of the house, which was darker than the front part and ended in a semi-circle or angle. It was neatly and pleasantly arranged; . . . the ceiling was vaulted. Its beams were decorated . . . and ornamented with a pattern of leaves. It was all simple and dignified.

    The farthest corner or apse of this room was divided off by a curtain and formed Mary's oratory. In the center of the wall was a niche in which had been placed a receptacle like a tabernacle, which could be opened and shut by pulling at a string to turn its door. In it stood a cross about the length of a man's arm in which were inserted two arms rising outwards and upwards, in the form of the letter Y, the shape in which I have always seen Christ's Cross. It had no particular ornamentation, and was more roughly carved than the crosses which come from the Holy Land nowadays. I think that John and Mary must have made it themselves. It was made of different kinds of wood. It was told me that the pale stem of the cross was cypress, the brown arm cedar, and the other arm of yellow palm wood, while the piece added at the top, with the title, was of smooth yellow olive wood. This cross was set in a little mound of earth or stone, like Christ's Cross on Mount Calvary. At its foot there lay a piece of parchment with something written on it; Christ's words, I think. On the cross itself the Figure of Our Lord was roughly outlined, the lines of the carving being rubbed with darker color so as to show the Figure plainly. Mary's meditation on the different kinds of wood forming the cross were communicated to me, but alas I have forgotten this beautiful lesson. Nor can I for the moment be sure whether Christ's Cross itself was made of these different kinds of wood, or whether Mary had made this cross in this way only for devotional reasons. It stood between two small vases filled with fresh flowers. I also saw a cloth lying beside the cross, and had the impression that it was the one with which the Blessed Virgin had wiped the Blood from all the Wounds in Our Lord's holy Body after it was taken down from the Cross. The reason why I had this impression was that, at the sight of the cloth, I was shown that manifestation of Our Lady's motherly love. At the same time I had the feeling that it was the cloth which priests use at Mass, after drinking the Precious Blood, to cleanse the chalice; Mary, in wiping the Lord's Wounds, seemed to me to be acting in the same way, and as she did it she held the cloth just as the priest does. Such was the impression I had at the sight of the cloth beside the cross.

    To the right of this oratory, against a niche in the wall, was the sleeping place or cell of the Blessed Virgin. Opposite it, to the left of the oratory, was a cell where her clothes and other belongings were kept. Between these two cells a curtain was hung dividing off the oratory. It was Mary's custom to sit in front of this curtain when she was working or reading. The sleeping place of the Blessed Virgin was backed by a wall hung with a woven carpet; the side walls were light screens of bark woven in different-colored woods to make a pattern. The front wall was hung with a carpet, and had a door with two panels, opening inwards.  . . . The little house stood near a wood among pyramid-shaped trees with smooth trunks. It was very quiet and solitary.  . . .

    The Blessed Virgin lived here alone, with a younger woman, her maidservant, who fetched what little food they needed. They lived very quietly and in profound peace. There was no man in the house, but sometimes they were visited by an Apostle or disciple on his travels. There was one man whom I saw more often than others going in and out of the house; I always took him to be John, but neither here nor in Jerusalem did he remain permanently near the Blessed Virgin. He came and went in the course of his travels.  . . . Last time he was here I saw Mary becoming ever quieter and more meditative: she took hardly any nourishment. It was as if she were only here in appearance, as if her spirit had already passed beyond and her whole being was far away. 

. . . Once I saw John come into the house, looking much older too, and very thin and haggard. As he came in he girt up his long white ample garment in his girdle, then took off this girdle and put on another one, inscribed with letters, which he drew out from under his robe. He put a sort of maniple on his arm and a stole round his neck. The Blessed Virgin came in from her bedchamber completely enveloped in a white robe, and leaning on her maidservant's arm. Her face was white as snow and as though transparent. She seemed to be swaying with intense longing. Since Our Lord's Ascension her whole being seemed to be filled with an ever-increasing yearning which gradually consumed her. John and she went together to the oratory. Our Lady pulled at the ribbon or strap which turned the tabernacle in the wall to show the cross in it. After they had knelt for a long time in prayer before it, John rose and drew from his breast a metal box. Opening it at one side, he drew from it a wrapping of material of fine wool, and out of this took a little folded cloth of white material. From this he took out the Blessed Sacrament in the form of a small square white particle. After speaking a few solemn words, he gave the Sacrament to the Blessed Virgin. He did not give her a chalice.

     Behind the house, at a little distance up the hill, the Blessed Virgin had made a kind of Way of the Cross. When she was living in Jerusalem, she had never failed, ever since Our Lord's death, to follow His path to Calvary with tears of compassion. She had paced out and measured all the distances between the Stations of that Via Crucis, and her love for her Son made her unable to live without this constant contemplation of His sufferings. Soon after her arrival at her new home I saw her every day climbing part of the way up the hill behind her house to carry out this devotion. At first she went by herself, measuring the number of steps, so often counted by her, which separated the places of Our Lord's different sufferings. At each of these places she put up a stone, or, if there was already a tree there, she made a mark upon it.  . . .  Afterwards she arranged the Stations better, and I saw her inscribing on the stones the meaning of each Station, the number of paces and so forth.  . . . At that time I saw no picture and no fixed cross to designate the Stations, nothing but plain memorial stones with inscriptions, but afterwards, as the result of constant visits and attention, I saw the place becoming increasingly beautiful and easy of approach. After the Blessed Virgin's death I saw this Way of the Cross being visited by Christians, who threw themselves down and kissed the ground.

    After three years' sojourn here Mary had a great longing to see Jerusalem again, and was taken there by John and Peter. Several of the Apostles were, I believe, assembled there . . . On their arrival at Jerusalem in the dusk of the evening, before they went into the city, I saw them visiting the Mount of Olives, Calvary, the Holy Sepulchre, and all the holy places outside Jerusalem.

The Mother of God was so sorrowful and so moved by compassion that she could hardly hold herself upright, and Peter and John had to support her as they led her away.

    She came to Jerusalem from Ephesus once again, [2] eighteen months before her death, and I saw her again visiting the Holy Places with the Apostles at night, wrapped in a veil. She was inexpressibly sorrowful, constantly sighing, 'Oh my Son, my Son'. When she came to that door behind the palace where she had met Jesus sinking under the weight of the Cross, she too sank to the ground in a swoon, overcome by agonizing memories, and her companions thought she was dying. They brought her to Sion, to the Cenacle, where she was living in one of the outer buildings . . . She herself chose a cave in the Mount of Olives, and the Apostles caused a beautiful sepulchre to be prepared here by the hands of a Christian stonemason. [At another time Catherine Emmerich said that St. Andrew had also helped in this work.] During this time it was announced more than once that she was dead, and the rumor of her death and burial was spread abroad in Jerusalem and in other places as well. By the time, however, that the sepulchre was ready, [3] she . . . was strong enough to journey back to her home in Ephesus, where she did in fact die eighteen months later. The sepulchre prepared for her on the Mount of Olives was always held in honor, and later a church was built over it, and John Damascene [4] wrote that she had died and been buried in Jerusalem. I expect that the news of her death, burial place, and Assumption into Heaven were permitted by God to be indefinite and only a matter of tradition in order that Christianity in its early days should not be in danger of heathen influences then so powerful: The Blessed Virgin might easily have been adored as a goddess.

     Amongst the holy women living in the Christian settlement near Ephesus and visiting the Blessed Virgin in her house was the daughter of a sister of Anna, the prophetess of the Temple. I saw her once traveling to Nazareth with Seraphia [Veronica] before Our Lord's Baptism. This woman was related to the Holy Family through Anna, for Anna was related to St. Anne and still more closely to Elisabeth, St. Anne's niece.  . . . Last night and the night before I had much to do with the Mother of God at Ephesus. I followed her Way of the Cross with her and some five other holy women. The niece of Anna the prophetess was there, and also Elisabeth's niece, the widow Mara. The Blessed Virgin went in front of them all. I saw that she was weak, her face was quite white and as though transparent. Her appearance was indescribably moving. It seemed to me as if I were following her here for the last time. While she was making the Stations, John, Peter, and Thaddaeus were I think, already in her house. I saw the Blessed Virgin as very full of years, but no sign of old age appeared in her except a consuming yearning by which she was as it were transfigured. There was an indescribable solemnity about her. I never saw her laugh, though she had a beautiful smile. As she grew older, her face became ever paler and more transparent. She was very thin, but I saw no wrinkles; there was no sign whatever in her of any withering or decay. She was living in the spirit, as it were.

    The reason why I saw the Blessed Virgin with such particular clearness in this vision may be my possession of a little relic of a garment which she wore on this occasion. I will endeavor to describe the garment as clearly as I can. It was an over-garment.  . . . in a few long folds. At the neck it was crossed over the breast and shoulders, . . . It was fastened round the waist by a girdle and fell from under her arms to the feet on each side of the brown undergarment.  . . . The little piece in my possession came from the right-hand side of this fold, . . .  I saw her wearing this dress at the wedding of Cana. In the third year of Jesus' ministry, when Our Lord was healing the sick and teaching beyond the Jordan at Bethabara [also called Bethania], I saw the Blessed Virgin wearing this dress in Jerusalem, where she was living in a beautiful house near the house of Nicodemus, who, I think, owned that house also. Again at Our Lord's Crucifixion I saw her wearing this garment, completely hidden under her praying and mourning cloak. No doubt she wore this ceremonial dress here at the Way of the Cross in Ephesus in memory of having worn it during Our Lord's sufferings on His way to Calvary.

1. The chronology here is not quite plain. The years given here probably include parts of years, since on elsewhere she states clearly that Mary lived approximately 14 years after the Ascension. If the Ascension took place in A.D. 30, the date of the Assumption would be A.D. 43 or 44, which will fit with the subsequent Martyrdom of James the Great under Herod. [A.D. 42-44].
2. These visits to Jerusalem may be the source of the legends that suppose her death to have taken place there. 
3. Her tomb at Gethsemani is mentioned in the Greek legend (48). The others indicate the Vale of Josaphat, usually identified with the Kedron Valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Gethsemani is on one side of the valley. (SB)
4. St. John Damascene, a monk at Jerusalem, died c. A.D. 754, and is a Doctor of the Church. His sermon (2 de Dormitione Deiparae) relates her burial at Jerusalem. It is recited in the Breviary on the Octave-Day or during the Octave, and is in fact the simplest collection of popular legends about the Assumption. (SB)


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