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Friday September 27, 2013 MYT 9:01:00 AM
Friday September 27, 2013 MYT 8:16:47 PM
by kamatchy sappani
The house in Turkey that has become a popular tourist destination.
Muslim pilgrims also go there as Maryam, as Mary is known in the Quran, has an honoured position as the mother of Jesus or Isa who is regarded as an important prophet in Islam.
As the place became more and more popular, the Vatican declared it a holy place.
After Pope Paul VI visited the house in 1967 and after some years of research by his cardinals, the Vatican leased the entire place from the Turkish government for 99 years for many millions of lira, carefully beautified the place and built an excellent road up the hill.
Two other houses were built discreetly in the pine-forested hill. Two nuns and two monks stay there. Prayers are said every day in the house that is now a chapel. A small outdoor area has been built where Mass is held on Sundays. There’s a café and a souvenir shop near the parking area.
Archaeologist Dr Gunes Toros took our tour group up the hill on a cool September morning.
He had urged us the day before to set off early so that we could savour the serenity of the site before the other tour buses arrived. How glad we were that we did!
We walked silently through the house. The peace was palpable. Some of us lit candles and put them in the glass-shielded stands outside the house. I saw a blue-robed nun make her way up a path, probably towards the private quarters behind the trees.
The path looped as we walked down and there was a wishing wall full of paper. Some of us added our wishes.
Just a little further down was a wall with taps connected to the spring. I took out a clean bottle and filled it with the water for my friend Celine, a devoted Catholic, and my secondary school headmistress Sister Rita, who made my school years a joy (primarily by shielding me from the wrath of my Maths teachers).
It was time to leave.
The outdoor area where mass is held every Sunday
As our luxury coach rolled smoothly down the perfectly tarred road, I glimpsed an older track and my mind slipped to another time, more than two thousand years earlier, imagining early Christians trudging up the thickly-forested hill carrying the stones and other materials needed to build the house for Mother Mary.
After she went to live there, they must have taken food and clothes up to her regularly over the years. All in secret. After all, they were protecting a very precious lady.
How long did she live there? How did she spend her days? Who kept her company? More questions than answers.
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