The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus located on the western coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) was built in the 6th century BCE, and such was its tremendous size, double the dimensions of other Greek temples including the Parthenon, that it was soon regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Destroyed by a deliberate fire in the 4th century BCE and then rebuilt, the great Ionic temple survived until Late Antiquity and the Gothic invasion of c. 267 CE. Once again rebuilt, in 401 CE it was torn down for the last time by a Christian mob. Today only the foundations and a solitary column stand as a reminder of the site where once stood the greatest temple in the ancient Mediterranean.
Ephesus has had a long tradition of being a centre of religious pilgrimage. The earliest pilgrims arrived to worship the Anatolian goddess known as Kybele. Later, this deity merged with the Greek goddess Artemis and was venerated at the great Artemision, attracting the pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean region. These ancient cults of female deities were later echoed in the worship of St. Mary, mother of Jesus, that supposedly spent the last years of her life in Ephesus. According to this tradition, Mary arrived at Ephesus together with St. John and lived there until her Assumption (according to the Catholic doctrine) or Dormition (according to the Orthodox beliefs). The House of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Evi in Turkish) which can be still visited today, is a place where, according to the beliefs of many people, Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent the last years of her life. However, similarly to the history of St. John, there are many questions and uncertainties regarding this location.