JAMAICA — Tucked into the hills of Jamaica is a small dome-roofed house made of stone and brick that was built because of the religious aspirations of Don and Mary Tarinelli.
The structure is the only known to-scale replica of what Christians and Muslims believe to be the last home of Jesus’ mother Mary in Ephesus, Turkey.
According to “The Acts of the Apostles,” a book in the New Testament of the Bible, after the death of Jesus Christ, St. John took Mary to Asia Minor, now Turkey, and built a home for her in the mountains where she would be safe from persecution.
Ruins of the house were discovered in Ephesus in the middle of the 19th century and declared to be where Mary lived the final years of her life. Shortly after the discovery the house was reconstructed.
Saturday the Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey, Guiseppe Bernardini blessed the walls and the altar of the replica with holy water and the four-year construction project officially became a holy place.
Bishop Salvatore Matano could not attend the ceremony on Saturday.
“From the altar looking out at the mountains going down looks exactly like Ephesus,” Bernardini said.
The replica of Mary’s last home is now part of the Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer started by Don and Mary Tarinelli some 15 years ago in a converted barn up the road from the replica site.
“It’s for anyone of any denomination to say ‘Stop the world I have to get off and say thank you’,” she said.
Mary Tarinelli said when Bernardini was visiting the house of prayer in Jamaica in 2001 he suggested that a replica be built on the property and when he returned to Turkey he sent the blueprints.
“We said, ‘Uh-oh, he’s serious’,” she said.
Greg Brown, the mason who built the replica, traveled to Ephesus with Don and Mary Tarinelli in 2002 to see the reconstruction of the original.
Brown said the armed guards circling the property made taking measurements difficult. “Don and Mary were on watch while I measured the altar and climbed up on the roof. The blueprints are on a napkin basically,” he said. “It was a sneaky operation, but for the most part it is exact,” he said.
Brown said though the design was simple physics the domed roof did not suit Vermont snowfalls, so they pitched the domes to outer drain tiles.
“It was the neatest project I’ll ever do because it’s all masonry. It was just our crew out in the field building a whole structure out of brick and stone,” he said.
Tarinelli said they strove to make an exact copy — from the candle stands to the missing nose and hands on the statue of the Virgin Mary.
However, the altar is made of Vermont marble and most of the stone for the house is from the property on Fawn Ledge Lane.
There were two stones donated for the interior, one from the original reconstruction in Ephesus blessed by Bernardini and the other from Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, where several people claim to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
The blessing ceremony, mass and luncheon drew around 250 people, many of them local religious leaders.
Andrew Diliddo of Bennington, a member of the Knights of Columbus, said he has only seen videos of Mary’s last home in Ephesus, but when he went into Jamaica’s version for the first time, “I got the same feeling that I got in the video.”
Sister Jessica of the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate in Connecticut said that is partly why the construction of the replica is so important to the religious community in this country.
“Many people are too young, too sick or it’s too far to go to Ephesus,” she said.
Tarinelli said she hopes the replica can achieve what the original reconstruction in Ephesus achieves — allowing all faiths to pray together using the common thread of the Blessed Mary.
Brown said Saturday’s event was a novelty because “most of the time it’s just the homeowners that see our work.”
Tarinelli said the house, built solely through donations, could not have been completed and with such precision if it were not the divine wishes of the Blessed Mother.
Paul Thomas from Vermont Stoneworks in Springfield built the replica of the altar that was placed in Mary’s house about 150 years ago. He carved each detail by hand. He said when Bernardini came to visit the house for the first time he put his hands on the altar’s detail, exclaiming, “‘Just like Ephesus’ — I took that as a compliment.”
Thomas said an odd thing happened to him during construction. The altar in Ephesus is entirely made of marble except for two gray pillars. Thomas said several years ago he was given a set of pillars from an old hotel and since then has sold all except two.
“I just held onto them, maybe thinking I would put a bird bath on it or something,” he said.
Thomas said when he pulled them out he found they were the exact color, carving and age as the ones in Ephesus and used them to complete the altar. “Everything for a reason,” he said.
Tarinelli said the house will become a national shrine open to visitors 24 hours a day.
The first mass will be conducted there by Bernardini Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Rutland Herald, Rutland, Vermont – October 2006