THE CITY OF MARDIN
With its history, architecture, archeological and visual values, Mardin is the most wondrous city of south-eastern Turkey. This poetic city is a living exhibition site in which it is possible to see how human labor shaped stone. Mardin and its surrounding area have seen the the joining together and coordinating point of religions and ethnic groups where the history of humanity began. Mardin is also one of the most important regions of Mesopotamia which throughout history was known as the Fertile Crescent. Due to its geographical situation, this region throughout history was a center of many societies, ethnic groups, religions and sects.
The greatest Turkoman dynasties Artuqid, Ak Koyunlu and Kara Koyunlu, then the Seljuk’s and Ottoman Empire made Mardin an important center during Mesopotamia’s political and cultural history. Our region was home to diverse beliefs, from Paganism to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Among these religions are Shems and Yezidi, later Judaism, Christian and Muslim sects. The region is also a center for the Syrian Orthodox faith and is called “Turabdin”. Mardin, has cherished many religions, cultures and civilizations, from the Sumerians to Babylonians, from the Persians to the Greeks and the Romans, from Sabiis to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Mardin has preserved its authentic character from the Artuqid’s to Seljuk’s, from the Ottomans to the Turkish Republic of our day.
Our city is a residential centre where for hundreds of years people have lived together fraternally, sharing the same geography, where neighborhoods have only been separated by places of worship and cemeteries. Here condolences, weddings and festivals reflect a common
culture. Each person regardless of his religion or race, whether Yezidi, Jew, Christian, or Muslims, all lived together, and shared their sorrow and happiness together. The peal of bells are mixed with the Muslim calls to prayer today just as they were in the past. People living here never drew divding lines between each other based on language or religion, race or gender. Mardin, with its rich culture of cohabitation from the past to the present, has reached positionwhich the rest of the world should aspireto attain. As in the past, from now on mankind has an important lesson to learn from Mardin.
Mardin Castle is standing on the hill dominating the old town and crowned with superb stonework. It was founded more than 3000 years ago and became the point around which the city began to grow. The castle even gave the modern name to the city. In the time of the Roman Empire it was known as Marida (Merida). This name can be translated as “fortress” from Neo-Aramaic language. Over time the name Marida has transformed to Mardin.
The castle you can see at the present time was constructed in 975-976 on the hill by the Hamdanis. It is 1200 m above sea and has a length of 1000 m and a width of between 30 and 150 m. It is clear from the reports of travellers who came to Mardin at different periods that there were many additions inside the castle including storage barns, wells and bathhouses. The castle known as the “Eagle’s Nest” due to its protected position, has six gates formerly.
Zinciriye Madrasa (Turkish Zinciriye Medresesi) also known as Sultan Isa Madrasa is one of the most beautiful historical sights in the old part of Mardin. It was build in 1385 Melik Necmeddin Isa bin Muzaffer Davud bin El Melik Salih. He was last Sultan from the Artuqid dynasty ruling in Mardin. The basic principles of the original Mardin architectural style were formed in the time of the Artuqids.
The madrasa building covers a rectangular and large area in the bottom of the Mardin castle. It consists of courtyard on two floors, mosque, tomb and various additional places. A distinctive feature of the madrasah is the two large domes. They are located on the east and west edges of the building. When one looks from the south, there is mosque under the sliced dome in the west and tomb under the sliced dome in the east.
Rumour has it that being called as “Zinciriye Madrasa” among people is for the reason that once chain was stretched between two sliced domes. Its said that the iron ring in the western dome is one of the rings which the chain was connected to. Rumour has it that the chain had been stretched between the minarets of the Grand Mosque. After one of the minarets had collapsed, it was brought to the madrasa and stretched between the domes.
The monumental portal was taken in a rectangular framework with a two-line mugamased grade outside. It remains high and climbed up by stairs ascending from the west. There is a large kerb with decorative cufic in this framework. It is surrounded with three sliced niche arches, which are handled by the columns on both sides.
It is also known that in 1401 when Timur invaded Mardin he impresoned last Artuqid Sultan Isa in Zinciriye Madrasa for a while. The madrasa functioned as a religious school until the 1920s. It was closed as part of Ataturk’s religious reform. After that for a long time Mardin Museum was placed there until it was moved to its present building.
At the present time Zinciriye Madrasa is one of the most famous tourist sights in Mardin. Also it is very popular place for the wedding photo sessions for locals.
Mor Behnam (Forty Martyrs Church :Kırklar Kilisesi)
Mor Behnam (Kırklar Kilisesi) church is one of the most significant historical sites in the old part of Mardin. It is located the Şar Neighbourhood of the city centre where nowadays many Christians are still living. This church was constructed in 569 and consecrated in honor of Syriac Saint Behnam and his sister Saro.
The rectangular planned main building, situated to the east of a large courtyard, is divided with arches supported by twelve thick columns. With its 400 year old wooden gates, root-dyed curtains, and spacious courtyard including the bell tower house and stonework examples that resemble a lacework, it is very striking.
In 1170 the relics of 40 martyrs were brought to this church. At the present time it belonges to the Syriac Orthodox Church and is the Metropolitan Church of Mardin. The church regularly hosts services and it is open for visiting.
Mardin Grand Mosque
Mardin Grand Mosque, which is from architecture samples of Artuqid Period and being the symbol of Mardin with its sliced dome and minaret, were built with two minarets according to records.
The epigraph, which is on a squared bedplate of single minaret that presents today, shows building date as 1176, but present minaret was built with a new and eclectic style in the years 1888/89. Some Assyrian authors claim that the mosque was converted from a church. It’s possible that an old church presented at its place, even it was not converted from church.
The building reflects basic features of the architecture of Artuqid Period in the 12th century. It’s an important example of mosque plan and form, which emerged in southeast in earlier period, with the structure that is domed in front of mihrab and transverse progressing.
The material of the building is cut stone. The dome of Grand Mosque was built with external fluting technique. It was firstly used in that building and then became such a tradition in Mardin that it is a characteristic in some later period Artuqid buildings. The rectangular courtyard of the mosque is on the north of the building.
In the south of the courtyard, a scheme, which is parallel to mihrab wall, consisting of three cradle vaulted naves, transverse progressed, domed in front of mihrab, is seen. This scheme is also a model which was imitated by many buildings around.
Ulu Cami's minaret
Located southwest of the old part of city Kasımiye Medrese is amongst the most significant historical sights of Mardin. Also its one of the best examples of the local Artuklu architecture style. The edifice is interesting due to its design, masonry and ornamentation. It is located inside a religious complex along with a mosque and a tomb.
The constraction of the medrese was stared in the end of the 13th century by İsa Bey of Artuklu an Anatolian beylik. But after he was killed during a war with the Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep Turkomans) in 1407 the constraction was stopped. It was resumed only 50 years later in 1457 by another Turkomans dynasty Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep Turkomans).
Kasımiye Medrese began to function in 1469 after putting into commission by Kasım Ak Koyunlu. An elephant clock designed by the Muslim engineer Cezeri became one of the main attractions of this place. The medrese functioned as a traditional Islamic school about 500 years before it was closed down in 1924 in order to secularise education.
Kasımiye Medrese is of the open medrese type, arranged around a single courtyard, two storeys and single eyvan. Cutting is made of stone and bricks. From the frontier, a corridor with a cradle vault connected by a crown door is entered. There is an independent mosque place in the west with the same entrance as the other parts.
In the philosophy of Islamic sufi flow of the water symbolizes the life of human from birth to death and after death with the arrangement of fountain-pool located in the courtyard of Kasımiye Medrese.
The water from the fountain represents the birth, the place it flows into represents the infancy and following sections respectively represent childhood and youth and also the long groove represents the old age and the pool water is gathered represents the judgement day.
Deyrulzafaran (Mor Hananyo) Assyrian Monastery in Tur Abdin
Deyrulzafaran Monastery is one of the most significant centers of the Assyrian Church besides its magnificent architecture. It is situated in about 5 km from the old part of Mardin in Tur Abdin plateau located in the southeast of Turkey. According to chronicles, the monastery was founded in the 5th century AD, when the first church was built there.
The Monastery was constructed on a complex which had been used as a Sun Temple before Christ and was then used as a fortress at the time of Roman Empire. When Romans left the region, Saint Shleymun broucht the bones of some saints here. He converted the castle into a monastery. For this reason, Deyrulzafaran Monastery was first known as Mor Shleymun Monastery.
After the modifications made by Mardin and Kefertuth Metropolitan Saint Hananyo starting from 793, it was known as Mor Hananyo Monastery. After 15th century it has been called as Deyrulzafaran which means “Saffron Monastery” because of saffron plants growing around the monastery. For long years the monastery was one of the religious education centers of the Syrian Church.
The church was built by Syrian architects Theodosius and Theodore brothers between 491-518 AD, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus. The width of the church is 12.3 meters, the height of it is 17.7 meters and the area of it is 271 square meters. This church is also called as the Domed Church, since the dome of it is like a cross. Various animal motifs on the outer frieze of the church attract attention.
It is understood from the Syrian writing on the columns that the abscissa was made by Niardin and Kefertuth Metropolitan Saint Hananyo in 793. The stone religious service platform that still survives was made by Syrian stone masters from Mardin and Midyat using yellow and cut stones in 1942. There are two attractive rostrums at the main abscissa part.
The rostrum at the left of the main abscissa is made of walnut tree and it is predicted to be 350 years old. This rostrum is used by the patriarchs. The rostrum at the right hand side belongs to metropolitans, it is made of tush and is predicted to be 500 years old. On the outer surface of the door, a poem of Saint Balay in Syrian and a small part of Prophet David’s psalms are written.
The restoration project of the monastery and its application are of utmost importance since Deyrulzafaran Monastery is a very much significant construction in the history of arts and architecture with its special position in cultural, aesthetical, technical and symbolic respects. Thus, the original materials and techniques that still exist in the monastery have especially been preferred to be used at maximum level.
About 60 kilometers east of Mardin, Midyat has an atmospheric Old Town district that is ripe for exploring.
The maze of alleyways is packed to the brim with lovely old stone houses, some completely crumbling, but others finely restored, and many with elaborately carved facade details.
There are five Syriac-Orthodox (Assyrian) churches in town, including Mar Aznoyo and Mar Barsaume, although none can be entered by tourists. Midyat's once thriving Assyrian population mostly emigrated to Europe during the mid to late 20th century due to local conflicts, fears of further repression, and economic worries.
Midyat is also a silversmith center, and small family-run jewelry workshops can be found throughout the town.
Just outside town (16 kilometers to the south) is Mor Gabriel Monastery, a 5th-century monastery complex that consists of several churches and memorial chambers. The Empress Theodora is thought to have endowed the monastery with its rectangular dome. Tours are conducted daily here by highly enthusiastic guides.
Assyrian Orthodox Monastery of Mor Gabriel
The Monastery of Mor Gabriel (Saint Gabriel) is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. It was founded in 397 by two monks Mor Shmuel and his apprentice Mor Shemun on the Tur Abdin plateau near ancient town of Midyat. According to legend Shemun saw an Angel in a dream and this Angel said him to build a church in a place marked with three big stones.
The extant monastery buildings were build in different times to meet the need of the encreasing number of monks. Some of these buildings were build by the donations of the Roman and Byzantine Emperrors like Honorius, Arcadius, Theodosius II and Anastasius. Now the monastery consist of two parts: the lower historic and the upper new annexes added in the last half-century.
Mor Gabriel Monastery
Tür Abdin Monasteries
Tür Abdin Monasteries
Tür Abdin (Mountain of the Servants of God) is a highland region east of Mardin where there are several Syriac-Orthodox (Assyrian) churches.
In the Byzantine era, countless monasteries were established here, and by the medieval period, the area was divided into four bishoprics, with more than 80 monasteries.
Two of the most interesting of the churches are Mor Yakop in the village of Bariştepe and Mor Kyriakos in the village of Bağlarbaşı. Note that there are no official opening times, and if the church guardians aren't in when you knock, you unfortunately won't be able to visit. The monasteries lie approximately 10 kilometers east of Midyat.
The ancient Roman city of Dara, 40 kilometers southeast of Mardin, is one of southeast Turkey's hidden attractions.
Savur is all about wandering the backstreets and admiring this small town's glut of gorgeous stone houses.
About 45 kilometers southeast of Mardin, the town is a smaller version of it, with its houses spilling around a little citadel, and interesting facades at every turn.
Time seems to have stood still here, and there's an easygoing feel, which manages to charm nearly everyone who visits. There's not actually many things to do. Instead, Savur is about soaking up the atmosphere and exploring the squiggling alleyways.
Afterwards, head seven kilometers east to the village of Kıllıt, with its abandoned stone houses climbing up a hill slope.
Kıllıt, near Savur
mythological queen of snakes and symbol of Mardin
Shahmaran (Turkish “Şahmeran”) is a fabulous creature which is popular in the culture of many peoples in the Middle East. She is considered to be the queen of the serpents and the keeper of the wisdom. She is usually described as a being with a head of a beautiful and intelligent woman, a body of a dragon and a second head of a poisonous snake at the tip of her tail.
The name of Shahmaran originates from the Persian words “Shah” and “Maran” where “Shah” is a the title for an Iranian ruler and “Maran” means snakes (singular is “Mar”). Probably at the pagan time she was revered as a goddess. And there was a cult of Shahmaran in the territory of present Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
It is very interesting that unlike other ancient gods she survived the coming of Christianity and even the spread of Islam. For example one version of the legend about Shahmaran can be found within the book of One Thousand and One Nights: the story “The Sultan of Underground”. Some people in the Middle East believe that her image can protect against bad events.
One of the popular legend about this interesting fairytale creature in Turkey relates to the Mardin Province. According to this legend she lived in the area of Mardin. So you can find a lot of the images of Shahmaran depicted in embroidery, jewelry and souvenir gifts sold in shops located in the old part of this beautiful and mystical city.
At the present time Shahmaran is rightfully considered as a one of the symbols of Mardin. Her image is very popular among Arabs and Turks that live in this area. But especially she is revered among the Kurds which constitute a significant part of the local population. To be continued…
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