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St. Paul's Grotto in EphesusSt. Pauls Grotto in Ephesus

St. Paul's Grotto in Ephesus
The Grotto of St. Paul (or Cave of St. Paul) is a cave located in the slope of Bulbuldag hill inside of the ancient Ephesus city containing important Early Christian frescoes and inscriptions. It is not known whether any of the churches in Ephesus were dedicated to St. Paul, but the saint appears prominently in a sacred cave on the cliff slope of Bulbuldag.

The Grotto of St Paul has been a Christian sacred site since the 1st or 2nd century. Possibly associated with a legend of St Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, the grotto was decorated with frescoes and inscriptions, including a portrait of Paul in the 6th century and ending in about the 11th century. The grotto was discovered in 1906 and excavated by the Austrian St. Pauls Grotto in EphesusArchaeological Institute. Karl Herold, head of the restoration department, discovered the frescoes beneath the plaster on the cave walls. Unfortunately the Grotto of St. Paul is not generally open to the public.

The Grotto of Saint Paul is carved into the northern slope of Bulbuldag (Nightingale Mountain), high above the Great Theater. A long corridor leads to the cave sanctuary, which is 15 meters long, 2 meters wide and 2.5 meters high. The corridor has two niches, blackened with soot from lamps. On the walls there are important 6th-century frescoes, accompanied by inscriptions, depicting the Virgin Mary, St. Paul and St. Thecla (a female disciple of Paul). This is the only known depiction of Paul at Ephesus and the earliest appearance of Paul and Thecla together.
St. Pauls Grotto in Ephesus
Invocations written on the walls of the cave are highly valuable for learning about Christian history in Ephesus, and indicate the grotto remained in continuous use throughout Late Antiquity and beyond. The Austrian Archaeological Institute has issued this report on their website: Nineteen of these graffiti have already been published as Die Inschriften von Ephesos IV.1285. Among these, most are short and simple, consisting of the one being petitioned, a form of the word "help" (βοηθει), and sometimes signed with "your servant [name]".

Of these, nearly all are invocations to Christ in some form ("Jesus Christ", "Christ", "Lord Jesus", or "Lord"). Three are invocations to Paul and one says simply "Mary Michael" with no surviving invocation. Inscriptions from the early 20th century, written on the plaster in the corridor, include the phrasesSt. Pauls Grotto in Ephesus "the hidden of Mother of God" and "Paul help your servant."





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