A Memorable Place A rare glimpse of an ancient church...


August 25, 2002|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A rare glimpse of an ancient church

By Gail A. French


When I shared my plans for a trip to Greece and Turkey with my friend, a priest in the Orthodox Church in America, he gave me a list of sacred Orthodox places to visit. I familiarized myself with the list before the trip and planned to show it to my traveling companion en route. When I discovered I had left it at home, I made a new list from memory and I emphasized to my companion that I especially needed to see the church in Ephesus.

After touring Ephesus and seeing only ruins from ancient times (the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was once one of the seven wonders of the world) and nothing from the Christian time, I asked the tour guide, "Where is the Christian church?"

With surprise, she asked, "How do you know about the church?"

I told her that a priest had told me about it.

"Well," she said, "we never let tourists view the church."

I explained that it would mean a lot to me to be able to tell my friend that I had seen it. She reluctantly directed us to the church, but insisted that we hurry because she could not hold the bus.

My friend and I ran through a deserted, overgrown field until we came upon a rambling stone ruin. There was no name on the ruin, but across the path was a sign that said, "The Council of Ephesus met here in 431 AD."

We walked through the ruin and discovered a baptismal font, several intact walls and various structures. One wall was graced with a large Orthodox cross. I touched the cross and said, "My friend sends his blessings."

It was so peaceful in that huge, silent ruin that it was hard for me to leave.

I tried to get some information about the church before leaving Turkey but found no mention of it in the guidebooks. After I arrived home, a Turkish acquaintance told me that the ruin was probably the Church of the Virgin Mary. (Mary was brought to Ephesus by St. John after the death of Christ.)

But after a search of the literature about Ephesus, I cannot confirm or deny that it was the Church of the Holy Virgin.

I wrote my priest friend and thanked him for telling me about all the sites to visit. I told him that the experience in the magnificent ruin of the church in Ephesus had been the highlight of my trip.

My friend wrote back: "I have never heard of a church in Ephesus. The Holy Spirit must have told you about the church."

Two groups of friends have since toured Ephesus. Both groups have asked to see the church. No one could direct them to it.

Gail A. French lives in Melbourne, Fla.

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