Most tours of Ephesus from Kusadasi also include a visit to the House of the Virgin Mary. Obviously, it is an important site from a religious perspective, but it is also interesting just from a historical prospective as well. It is commonly believed that Mary came to Ephesus with Saint John after the crucifixion of Christ and lived near the city for the remainder of their lives. There is no proof that the house was truly the final home of Mary, but it has been a place of pilgrimage since its discovery in the late 1800’s.
The story of how the house was discovered is just as interesting as the actual site itself. A German nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, who was an invalid and never traveled outside of Germany had a vision of Mary and the house where she lived. She described the location in great detail in 1812 and it matched the hillsides of Ephesus. In 1881, the house was discovered using the description provided by Anne Catherine Emmerich by a French Priest and it has been visited by people ever since. Although the church has not officially weighed in on the authenticity of the site, several popes have visited the site and have held services at the chapel.
Seeing the house of the Virgin Mary is interesting, but walking through the ruins of Ephesus is more impressive. We only spent about a half hour walking around the house and listening to the history from our guide. In addition to the house, where photography is not permitted, there is a wishing wall with a spring with a fountain and water cistern where it is believed that baptisms took place.
It might seem odd to visit a cemetery, but they are often very beautiful, historic, and tranquil, which Oak Hill Cemetery certainly is. In fact, more than 200,000 people visit this particular historic cemetery on an annual basis and it is even possible to get a tour. We simply enjoyed walking the paths that led us amongst the tomb stones, mausoleums, and tree lined hills. It was a beautiful day and the autumn foliage made it even more wonderful to see. There was only one issue with our visit, we didn’t notice a sign at the entrance that stated that the cemetery closed at 4:30 pm and we ended up being there until 5:00 pm, so we got locked in the cemetery.
When we arrived back at the gate, we were surprised to see it chained up and locked. The fence around the cemetery is very high and not something that can easily be scaled, so great for keeping people out or, in our case, people in. The caretaker’s house is located at the gate, but there is no guarantee that they would be there, but fortunately for us, he was. He was pleasant enough and we probably weren’t the first people to get locked in, but it was embarrassing. Far better to feel a little bit of chagrin than to spend a night in a cemetery with graves that date back hundreds of years.
In addition to the graveyard and trails, there is also the Renwick Chapel in the cemetery. It was designed by the same person who designed the famous Smithsonian Castle, James Renwick. If you do decide to visit the cemetery and are a history buff, you can visit their website, The Oak Hill Cemetery – Washington, D.C. (oakhillcemeterydc.org) to get a map and a list of notable figures from history who are buried there. We’d also recommend that you make note of the current hours in order to avoid getting locked inside.
During our recent trip to Washington DC, we visited the Washington National Cathedral (officially named The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul), which is a gothic cathedral that rivals any that we have visited in other countries. Although we have been to Washington DC many times, this was actually the first time that we actually went to the cathedral. At the moment, the number of visitors allowed is limited and you should get tickets in advance, but you aren’t required to visit at specific times and can visit anytime during the day of your ticket. Once at the cathedral, you can take a self-guided tour using information provided by the cathedral or simply wander through the cathedral if you prefer.
Obviously the high ceilings of the main cathedral hall are quite dramatic as you walk towards the High Altar located on the opposite side of the entrance. as you face the altar, there are three chapels located to the right of the altar, the War Memorial Chapel, the Children’s Chapel, and the St. John’s Chapel, which is directly adjacent to the High Altar. Sitting in front of the High Altar, which is separated by wooden arches, are two ornate pulpits. One of the pulpits is the Canterbury Pulpit, which is made from stones from the Canterbury Cathedral in the UK. To the left of the High Altar is St. Mary’s Chapel and Holy Spirit Chapel.
Another highlight of the cathedral are the 231 fascinating stained glass windows that are located all around the cathedral hall. There are many traditional types of stained glass windows depicting religious images, but there are many non-traditional windows as well. Some of the more unique are the Space Window, which celebrates America’s exploration of space and actually contains a piece of moon rock brought back by the Apollo 11 astronauts. The Woodrow Wilson War and Peace Window is dedicated to the only president that is buried in Washington DC. And, of course, there is no missing the Creation Rose Window that appears to change color during the day as the sun’s position changes.
Walking the exterior of the National Cathedral is equally enjoyable with its height, pointed arches, gargoyles, and stone grotesques. There is a Darth Vader grotesque located on one of the towers, but it is almost impossible to see without binoculars. It was added in the 80’s after a contest was held for children to design a statue for the cathedral. It is worth taking the time to walk around the entire cathedral and there is a self-guided tour that will provide information on some of the 112 gargoyles that adorn the church exterior.
The Washington National Cathedral is not located in downtown Washington DC with all of the Smithsonian Museums, Monuments, Capital, and White House, but it is worth taking the time to visit. The fact that it isn’t located next to all of the other tourist sites is probably one of the reasons that we hadn’t visited it before, especially with so many things to see in Washington DC. We certainly enjoyed our visit and glad that we walked the 60 minutes to get there from where we were staying in the Georgetown area.