Mardin’s environs are full of priceless, and not quite so priceless, treasures. One of the must sees though is the old Syriac Monastary – Deyrulzafaran. Originally built as a chamber on a hill overlooking Mesopotamia for the purposes of worshiping a sun god, this place of worship was later adopted by Christianity. On top of what was once a small chamber a great monastery was then built.
Rising out of the dusty arid hills stands the monastery. Long baked dry by the sun from scorching summers, the building stands constructed from yellowy orange, almost saffron, colored stones. Turkey is full of old churches from it’s days of being one of the gateways of Christianity’s spread. Today, most of these churches have now been converted into mosques or have fallen into disrepair. The Deyrulzafaran Monastery is unique in it’s uninterrupted use as a living place of worship until today.
Syriac Christianity can rightly claim to be one of the oldest denominations of Christianity. Syriacs also have the right to brag of speaking Syriac, one of the few living dialects of ancient Aramaic – the ancient language of the Old and New Testaments. Syriac, written in it’s own script that resembles a mix of Hebrew and Arabic, adorns the walls and tombs of this great building.
Although bustling now with tourists from all all corners of Turkey, the Deyrulzafaran Monastery offers a glimpse of calm and reflection within it’s hallowed walls. Built in a typical Middle Eastern resembling style, the entire complex is surrounded by a strong outer wall. Inside, a wide green courtyard is the center piece, out of which individual cells, kitchens, and bathrooms spring. Students still come to the monastery to pursue a religion education in their, sadly, ever diminishing faith.
Located just six kilometers outside of the center of Old Mardin, the monastery is a must see. For anyone interested in the history of Christianity, beautiful old buildings, or wonderful views of the Mesopotamian plateau, don’t pass up this chance to see a still living ancient place of worship.