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TIGERS IN EPHESUS: Drawing in the Aura of the Virgin

A TOWN OF STORKS & OLD STONE The ruins of Ephesus are near Selçuk, so we went there. Selçuk- pronounced SELchuk– is near Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Antalya (Anatolia,) and full of old Roman chunks, Byzantine and pre-Alexandrian wreckage, and Meryemana, the purported last home of the Virgin Mary, which Cynthia was crazy to see. We approached between mountains, turreted ruins on their peaks.

Castled Hill, Selçuk 2005

Fairy-tale storks nest all along the tops of Selçuk’s ruined Roman aqueduct, each tower topped with its bristling nest and the tall jointed black-and-white stork families, little storklet beaks sticking up. Drawing them, I thought about Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Marsh King’s Daughter, imagining… the Egyptian princesses flying with the storks, long black hair trailing behind them across the sky, the one princess dropping down, down into the marsh, the lotus flower bubbling up later with the savage beautiful daughter of the Princess and the Marsh King.

Storks in Selçuk, Selçuk Main Square 2005

Cynthia, jet-lagged, holed up in her room with a book and I wandered Selçuk, drawing.

The Byzantine Citadel looks down on the town from its hilltop above the vast rambling ruin of St John’s Basilica, built over his tomb by an elder Justinian in the name of his dead Empress, Theodora, and later wrecked by earthquake. They say that St John preached up there in the Citadel.

St John’s in the Weeds, Selçuk 2007
The CItadel from St John’s, Selçuk 2012
The Citadel from the Road, Selçuk 2005

Over St John’s tomb is a flat marble platform, erected by the Turks, with four shiny new marble pillars framing the original dark, pitted old headstone scored with Coptic crosses.

St John’s Headstone, Selçuk 2005

The ruin of St John’s meanders all over the hill, stairs going up to nothing, massive chunks of masonry tilting up out of the ground, and gypsies trying to sell fake old coins. One showed me a hipbone and kneecap sticking out of a wall of dirt, as well as some buried mosaics.  I am sorry to say that the town has now replaced and corrected the large sign that described how the Virgin Mary came to be in Ephesus. In embossed painted metal, it said:


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