In 1881 a French priest, having read The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, put Emmerich’s visions to the test. Father Julien Gouyet found a house which conformed to the descriptions, and obviously was in a state of disrepair, having used the book as a guide. Most people didn’t believe him. Most people have tremendous difficulty believing that our world can be as strange as it truly is.
A decade later Servant of God Marie de Mandat-Grancey, a French nun, had been working at a hospital relatively nearby in the city of Smyrna (now Izmir). She urged two Lazarist missionaries, Fathers Eugène Poulin and Henri Jung, to help her find that very same house. They did so in 1891, having used the same book as Gouyet for their guide.
Sister Marie, who’d come from a noble family, secured the purchase of the house. She also made sure that the mountain on which the house stood was purchased as well. For a Catholic nun to have done so in the Ottoman Empire was no easy task, but she was practical, as well as persistent. As Foundress of Mary’s House, a position given to her by the Church, she took up the task of restoring and preserving the site.
The House of the Virgin Mary remains under the Church’s care to this very day. Pope Leo XIII gave his blessing upon the house in 1896, and Pope St. John XXIII granted plenary indulgences upon it in 1961. Popes Paul VI (1967), St. John Paul II (1979) and Benedict XVI (2006) have each paid visits in the years since.