The ancient road from Jerusalem to the Black Sea runs along the coast, and gives lovely views over the wine-dark Mediterranean. There by the roadside stands a once neglected house. It was architecturally obviously well-constructed in the first century style, made of stone, though the ravages of ages had caused the roof to fall in. Three pilgrims approach the door: one a Catholic, the other an orthodox Christian and the other a Muslim. The three greet each other, pay and enter. They are there with common purpose, to honour Mary the mother of Jesus. They are visiting a site that the local people of the area have deemed sacred for centuries, and these locals, who claim descent from early Christians in the area, believe that Mary was there. Reason enough to deem it sacred. But what was Mary doing there?
The year thirty eight was a bad year for Christians. Herod Agrippa the First,, who ruled all of Palestine between thirty six AD and thirty nine, had had James the brother of John executed [a fancy name for legalized murder) and Peter had been arrested only for an angel to free him from prison and give him the opportunity to escape, but it was clear that senior members of the church were being targeted. As a woman Mary was not the most senior target, but she was up there with the top targets. But John the apostle was missed out from the initial arrests., giving him time to flee with the others. The scattered Christians went to many places, taking the gospel with them. Significantly this is the year when Mary is said to have been taken to Ephesus. Why choose Ephesus? It was only in modern day Turkey, so it was not far from Judea, where the church was based. Furthermore, there were two viable routes: going by donkey overland, but donkeys are slow and uncomfortable. Speed was of the essence, and Mary, by that time not a young woman, would not have found the ground journey easy. The other route was sea transport from Caesarea, a sea port on the Mediterranean coast, or less conveniently, from Joppa. This would be more comfortable and faster. Furthermore, Ephesus was a town where Herod, a local ruler In Palestine, had no authority, and where the crowds in what was a pagan metropolis, would have given the fugitive Christians cover. Ephesus it was.
The house is a construction pretty standard for that period, well-situated, not in the city of Ephesus, which was sometimes disorderly, but in the countryside outside the city, about four miles from the town, enough to provide a quiet place where the Christians could get on with their worship.
The persecution did not last long. In 44 Herod died suddenly and the Roman procurator who took over had no interest in persecution. Did Mary return home? We do not know. But there is a tradition that she died at Jerusalem.