The Oldest Syriac Monastery: Mor Gabriel Monastery, Mardin


Mor Gabriel Monastery (Deyrulumur Monastery), located in Mardin ‘s Midyat district, which resembles a postcard with its stone houses, is one of the famous and largest works of the Syriac Ancient Community. Mor Gabriel, which has the distinction of being the oldest standing Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world, was founded in 397 by Mor Şmuel and Mor Şemun on a high hill covered with oak trees.

The present name of the monastery, which has been known by different names throughout history, comes from the name of Mor Gabriel, the bishop of the ‘Turabdin’ region, the homeland of the Assyrians, which includes Midyat and its environs. Located in the geography between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the church is considered the most famous Syriac monastery in Mesopotamia and Asia in terms of its role in the history of Christianity.

Midyat is an open-air art center where the noblest form of silver is filigree and outstanding examples of filigree are produced. In recent years, it has turned into a movie set in popular TV series. The geography of the region is called Tur Abdin in Syriac.

Assyrians are one of the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, which has a history of 5 thousand years and contributed greatly to the development of civilization. Assyrians with a population of twenty thousand in Turkey, Hz. They speak Syriac, which is considered a dialectic of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. They form the second largest ‘Non-Muslim’ minority in Turkey after Armenians.

Deyrulumur Monastery, which is one of the most important monasteries of the region, is clean, well-maintained and surrounded by high walls, is located on the Midyat-Cizre road, right in the middle of Midyat and Şırnak, İdil District. It has continued to function as a monastery uninterruptedly since the day it was built.

Mor Gabriel Monastery , Mardin

Mor Gabriel Monastery (Deyrulumur Monastery), located 23 kilometers southeast of Mardin’s Midyat district, is the oldest Syriac Orthodox monastery still open for worship in the world. Located within the borders of Güngören Village of Midyat, the monastery is located on a high hill covered with oak trees.

The monastery, which is the most important temple of the Syriac Ancient Community, was built in 397 by
Mor Şmuel from the village of İştin in the Savur region and Mor Şemun from the village of Kartmin near the monastery, on a Zoroastrian temple.

During this period, it was known as ‘Mor Şmuel Monastery’ with the name of its first founder and later as ‘Mor Şemun Monastery’ with the name of its second founding ancestor. The reputation of the monastery soon reached the ears of the emperors who lived in Constantinople (Istanbul) and Rome at that time.

With the various additions made around the monastery over time, a rather large body of structures has been formed. During the time of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperor King Arcadius (395-408), shelters and prayer places were built by Mor Şemun, one of the founders. The monastery has also become an important center for those who want to live a life of seclusion and receive education.

In the age of the Roman Emperor King Theodosius (408-450), the House of Saints, where the sarcophagi would be placed, the Virgin Mary Church, the Church of the Messengers, the Kırkşehit Church, the Dome of Theodora, and the Mor Şlemun Shrine were added due to the improvement of Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinianus, by Mor Smuel.

The famous monarchs of the period also showed interest in the monastery, which became famous all over the world when it was founded. Roman Emperors Arcadius and Honorius, then II. Theodosius (408–450) and Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (430-518) are among the famous donors to the monastery.

In the first period when the monastery was built, it was called Mor Şmuel and Mor Şemun Monastery after the names of the founders. Some called it Kartmin Monastery because of its proximity to Kartmin (Yayvantepe) Village. In the historical process, it has been called by different names from time to time.

The name ‘Deyrulumur’, which means ‘House of the Priests’ and derived from the Syriac name ‘Dayro d’Umro’, has been the name of the monastery for a long time. The monastery, known as ‘Kustinoyo’ after the name of the village of Kustan (Alagöz), was appointed as Mor Gabriel metropolitan in the 7th century. He was elevated to the rank of ‘Saintness’ as he showed many miracles such as resurrecting the four dead.

The monastic life, which started with Mor Şmuel and Mor Şemun, soon became a center where 400, then 560 and then around 1000 monks and students gathered. It was customary for every family in Turabdin to leave the first-born boy in the monastery school in the year he turned 10.

His disciples came not only from Turabdin, but also from the entire Mesopotamian region, and even from distant regions such as present-day Ethiopia. In the monastery, where religious education was given, Syriac language and literature, philosophy, rhetoric or rhetoric, Greek and medical sciences were taught at the same time.

Since the Mor Gabriel Monastery was an important center against the Chalcedon Council gathered in Istanbul, especially during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justin I (518-527), it faced great pressure. The Church of Antakya, with which it was in conflict, also used the imperial powers, causing the Mor Gabriel monks to leave the monastery for 20 years.

These attacks continued until 527, when Emperor Justin I died, but during this time the monastery was badly damaged and looted. It is among the rumors that 2 lions guarded the Great Church during this period, and the lions left the monastery upon the return of the priests. The lion motifs on the church door are a reference to this myth.

In 581, when the Persians occupied the region, the monastery was badly damaged and most of its valuables were looted. The monastery library and archive, which has a rich collection, was also badly damaged. In 605, the Romans retake the area, but eight years later, in 613, the Persians besieged the area again.

The monastery, one of the oldest places of worship in the world, became the Syriac metropolitan center between 615 and 1049. While the Muslim Arabs took the region in 640, it survived this period without any damage thanks to the Monastery administration.

Another heavy attack on the monastery was in 1100, again because of the Persians. The most valuable manuscripts of the period in the Monastery Library disappeared. Valuable items made of gold, silver and copper used in rituals were looted.

The monastery, which has been the science center of the Syriac church throughout its history of more than 1600 years, began to be called Mor Gabriel Monastery after the 15th century. Many patriarchs, metropolitans, priests and priests were brought up here. Although the monastery has been plundered many times over the years and its monks have been killed, it stands tall despite dozens of wars, plunder and looting.

The reputation of the monastery is so great that it is called ‘the sun of the eastern monasteries’. Just as Masjid al-Aqsa is sacred for Muslims, Mor Gabriel Monastery has the same value for Assyrians. The Turabdin region is known as the ‘Second Jerusalem’ for Assyrians.

The monastery continues its tradition of providing education today. The students, whose numbers range from 25 to 40, work in the service of the church and the congregation, and take lessons in Syriac and Liturgy .

Mor Gabriel Monastery Sections

You enter this world’s oldest working monastery, which is surrounded by walls and spread over a large area, through a plain inlaid door. The two sides of the garden are lined with rows of trees painted half-waisted white. Although its entrance is plain, the monastery is more striking in terms of architectural style than Deyrulzafaran Monastery, Kırklar Church, Mor Yuhanon.

Additions made in different periods led to a colorfulness in architectural style. Midyat cut stones, which came to life in the hands of Syriac masters, were used in the construction of the monastery, which has a great historical importance with its unique structures from the 5th and 6th centuries, mosaics from the Byzantine period, domes and doors.

Clusters of grapes and vineyard leaves are delicately embroidered on the doorways, corner columns, and railings of all buildings in the monastery. The monastery has two high bell towers, aesthetic and elegant. The ends are crowned with delicate white crosses designed to resemble a flower pattern.

It has been keeping the Christian religion tradition alive since the day it was founded with its hermitage rooms, the Hermitage Tower, domed structures, terraces, abbara and porticoes, which reflect the ascetic life of the priests, and cross motifs from the early period.

Anastasia Church , the main church of Mor Gabriel Monastery. Its foundation dates back to 397. Since it was completed in 512 with the financial support of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I, its name was changed to the Anastasia Church.

Theodora Dome is one of the most beautiful and remarkable structures of the monastery. The dome, which uses stone and brick in its construction and creates fascinating harmonies with the skylight on its ceiling, has an enchanting beauty. The 9.44-meter-high dome, which is entered through the door in the north-west of the Anastasia Church, is carried by eight arches.

The Church of Our Lady (Yoldath Aloho) is at the southwestern end of the monastery, the emperor of Eastern Rome II. It was made with donations of Theodosius. Every year, on 15 August, hundreds of Assyrians come to the ancient structure Virgin Mary Church and attend the ceremony held for the ascension day of the Virgin Mary.

The House of Saints hosts the tombs of 15 Assyrian saints who lost their lives in different periods, placed in the niche. Built in AD 449, it is one of the largest mausoleums in the region. The House of Saints, which means ‘Beth Kadise’ in Syriac, consists of two vaults compressed using keystone.

There are tombs in niches prepared for saints who died at different times. There are dozens of holy clergy’s tombs in each niche. The clergy were buried in a sitting position, facing east. Mor Gabriel’s grave is located on the ground, not in the niche in the wall, as he willed.

The Monastery Library was one of the richest libraries of the period, as the monastery was an important religious and educational center. Due to the wars and attacks, almost all of the priceless manuscripts he had were destroyed.

Still, few of the Bible manuscripts that have been likened to calligraphy and miniature art have survived. It was understood from a manuscript that there were literary and scientific works written in Greek in addition to the Syriac manuscripts in the monastery library. Some of the manuscripts are in the British Library .

The Syriac community still visits the monastery today to receive blessings from the saints who lie in the House of Saints, to pray for the priests, and to pray in the holy church. Those who visit the monastery 7 times with faith become pilgrims as if they had visited Jerusalem.

Apart from these main structures, Mor Gabriel Monastery also includes religious sites such as the Forty Martyrs Church, Mor Şemun and Mor Şmuel Church, and the Egyptian Dome.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.