We continue our article on Mardin, which we started in our last issue. With its 3000 years of history, Mardin is home to many cultures and historical artifacts. Mardin is a cultural treasure with its mosques, monasteries, churches and unique architecture.
In our article on our journey to this treasure, we included historical buildings and the ancient city of Dara in the city.
Virgin Mary Church and Patriarchate
The building, which was built as a church in 1860, is used as a museum today. In the church, which has an acoustic sound system, the sitting and preaching place of the patriarch is decorated with wooden handwork. It attracts attention with its elegant appearance. The Patriarchate was built in 1895.
It was transferred to the Ministry of Culture in 1988. It has been restored and used as a museum since 1995. A part of the old Patriarchate building was demolished during the expansion works carried out in 1914-1915.
Deyrulzafaran Monastery is one of the most famous historical monuments of Upper Mesopotamia. It is 5-10 minutes away from Mardin. The monastery, which is the religious education center of the Syriac Ancient community, is dated to the 4th century.
The monastery is still one of the important centers of the Syriac Church. The monastery is located on the area used as a castle by the Romans with the Sun Temple belonging to the sun-worshiping community, Şemsiler.
The monastery, which was renovated by the metropolitan Aziz Hananyo in 793, is named after him for a while. The name of the monastery was later changed to Safran Monastery (Deyrulzafaran) because of the saffron plant grown around it. The name Deyrulzafaran comes from the Arabic words “deyr” meaning monastery and “zaferan” meaning saffron.
The monastery is a beautiful example of architecture with its domes, arched columns, wooden handicrafts, and stone embroidery in the interior and exterior. There are also the tombs of 52 Syriac Patriarchs in the monastery, where there are three places of worship from various periods. In Deyrulzafaran Monastery, there are Semsi Temple, Mor Honanyo Church, Virgin Mary Church, Mor Petrus Church, Saints Cemetery, Divanhane and priest rooms.
Purple Gabriel (Deyrulumur) Monastery
Founded in 397 AD, the temple continues to function as one of the oldest active monasteries in the world. It is located in the village of Yayvantepe, 22 kilometers
from Midyat, the sacred center of the region.
The monastery is one of the famous and great works of the Syriac Ancient Orthodox community. The mosaics in the main church are among the most magnificent surviving examples of Byzantine art in the eastern regions. The dome, which is dated to the first half of the 6th century, is thought to have been built for the baptistery.
In the complex, besides the Mother Church, there are three other churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Forty Martyrs and Mor Simeon, the founder of the monastery. There is an octagonal mausoleum known as the tomb of Egyptian monks and three burial chambers in the Mor (Purple) Simeon Church.
Dara Ancient City
According to the information of ancient and medieval historians such as Evagrius, Malalas, Agapius and Abu’lFarac; Persian King III. It is assumed that the place where Darius (336-330 BC) died in the war against Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) was later named Dara,
and the origin of the name Dara is based here.
According to the 13th century Syriac historian Abu’l Farac (Bar Hebraeus), about the origin of the name Dara, the Hellenic King Alexander the Great and the Persian King Darius fought here and Darius died here. For this reason, the name of this place was Dara.
Important Buildings in the Ancient City of Dara Multi-Storey Gallery Grave Structure
It is a three-storey burial structure arranged completely carved into the bedrock in the rock necropolis area. The upper floor of the building, which has a rectangular plan in the north-south direction; It is in the form of a corridor/balcony that continues on the west, south and east sides.
On the pediment of the monumental entrance to the north of the building, religious
scenes were engraved with herbal ornaments.
It is assumed that this gallery tomb, in which the Ezekiel (Prophet resurrecting the dead) scene in the holy books is portrayed, was built by the Eastern Romans, who returned from exile in 591, in honor of the Eastern Roman people who were killed in war by the Sassanids
after the 573 invasion.
During the excavations carried out in 2009, bones belonging to hundreds of people were unearthed in the lower floor of the building and it was determined that these people gathered in this tomb for the day they would be resurrected, as in Ezekiel’s miracle.
The wide hills to the west of the city were used as quarries for the construction of the city at the beginning of the sixth century AD. The smooth façades formed by stone cutting were later converted into a cemetery. On the wide hills extending to the west of the city, rock cemetery areas in the form of deep and wide valleys were created by carving the natural rock mass. There are 3 different types of tombs in this area. These are Rock tombs (6th-8th century), Sarcophagus type tombs (6th-8th century) and simple cist graves (8th-14th
The chamber tombs carved into the rocks in Dara reflect pagan burial culture features. The reason for this is that Pagan cultural characteristics have continued their influence on the Christianized people for many years. Although the people in Dara converted to Christianity, these chamber tombs where multiple burials were made and Pagan traditions continued for
Paganism is a form of belief that has its origins in the ancient nature religions of the world and is the general name of these religions. People who belong to these religions are called pagans. For the Roman, the sarcophagus-type tombs are the places of the souls in the other world.
The soul of the deceased will reside and be preserved in this place. Roman sarcophagi were shaped with this understanding. With the traditionalization of Christianity, burials began in simple cist graves.