A Museum That Smells Like History: Mardin Museum
Exhbiting the city’s archaeology and history with a collection over 45.000 artefacts from the Paleolithic Age to date, Mardin Museum (Mardin Müzesi) is a true institution of education, learning and communication, exceeding the classical definition of museums as “places to protect and exhibit artefacts”.
The Museum exhibits ceramics, barands and cylindirical seals, coinage, oil lamps, figurines, teardrop bottles, jewelry and vases that belong to the Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, Early Iron Ages and the Assyrian, Urartian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, Artuqids and the Ottoman Eras.
The most attractive pieces of the Museum are 3 large earthenware jars of gold and silver coinage and jewelry that were brought to daylight in 2009 during an infrastructure work in Mardin’s Sürekli Village of the Kızıltepe County. These pieces are believed to tbe the Treasury of the Forty Thieves.
The Museum also hosts archeological and etnographical exhibit halls, conference halls and recreational lounges.
Mardin’s Sign: The Grand Mosque of Mardin.
The Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami), the oldest and most important temple of Mardin was built in 1176 during the time of the Artuqid Sultan Kutbettin Ilgazi. Reflecting the architectural features of the Artuqid Period, The Grand Mosque becomes a sign of Mardin with its segmented dome and minaret. History reports that the original structure consisted of 2 minarets of which one could survive to our day. The current day ornate minaret with a cylindirical body was built during the 19th century.
The minaret, visible from every other corner of the city, is one of the first visuals on remembers about Mardin. Some of the Syriac writers claim that the building was converted from a church. Even if the building is not converted from a church, it is possible that a church was here in earlier times.
Deyrul Zafaran Monastery
Deyrul Zafaran derives from deyr and zafaran meaning monastery and saffron in Arabic respectively, after the saffron growing in the terrain around the monastery. Deyrul Zafaran Monastery (Deyrul Zafaran Manastırı) was built on the grounds of a previous Temple of the Sun belonging to the Shamsi and a compund that was used by the Romans as a citadel during the 5th century. Deyrul Zafaran housed the Patriarchy for 640 years and is still a very important center of the Syriac Church (Süryani Kilisesi) as well as the residence of the Metropolitan Bishop of Mardin.
The first printing press of the region was purchased by the Patriarch of the time in 1876 from England and transported to the monastery to print books in Syriac, Arabic, Ottoman and Turkish, until 1969. The monastery is a beautiful example of architecture with domes, arched columns, wooden engravings as well as interior and exterior masonry, and offers mosaics from that period even today.
The double courtyarded monastery hosts a Temple of the Sun besides Mor Hananyo’s Domed Church (Kubbeli Kilise), The Church of Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Kilisesi), and The House of the Saints (Azizler Evi).
Mor Behnam, the Church of the Forty Martyrs
This church is located in the Şar District of Mardin’s Center. A rectangular plan church built on the Eastern side of a long courtyard, parting into 12 thick columns and arches was built in 569 and dedicated to the Syriac Saint Mor Behnam and his sister Saro. The church is impressive with its 400 year old wooden doors, vegetable dyed curtains, the bell tower and its house and niches with embroidery like masonry. The relics of the Forty Martys was brought to the curch in 1170, which still serves as the Metropolitan Bishopry of Mardin.
This building, located in the Madrasa District just below the citadel, was commissioned by Melik Necmeddin İsa in the year 1385. Melik İsa, who fought agains Tamerlane and his army, was imprisoned here for a while and therefore the building is also known as Sultan Isa Madrasa (Sultan Isa Medresesi). The Madrasa hosts the Shrine of Sultan Isa (Sultan Isa Türbesi) and a number of old inscriptions. Due to its location above town, it was used as an observatory in the past, and the Mardin Museum was here before moving to its current location. The masonry on the main portal and the segmented domes of this double courtyarded and duplex planned madrasa has such grandeur that is worth seeing. It is also a great pleasure to watch over the panorama of Mardin from the Madrasa.
There is no original inscription left from the Kasımiye Madrasa (Kasımiye Medresesi) yet it is known that the construction started during the Artuqid Period and carried on during 1487 – 1502 by Sultan Kasım of the Akkoyounlular Period. Known as the largest of the structures in Mardin, this duplex structured and open courtyard planned madrasa with brick stone and terra cotta used together embraces the endless Mesopotomia Valley.
Surviving to date, the madrasa was used multifunctionally at its day. There are symbols of astronomy and medical sciences on the walls. The madrasa’s porticoed courtyard also has a large pool. Water flowing in a few metres away from the pool goes through a gutter and reaches the pool. This pool was designed with a philosophical approach to architecture to reflect human life from birth to death. The spring stands for birth followed the first steps, and then drifts, followed by a long and narrow period of youth; then the pool symbolizing age and weariness followed by the still waters symbolizing death and finally the large drifting pool symbolizing the Day of Judgment…
It is known that at some stage, the pool was used for teaching astronomy using the reflection of the stars on the still water. The doors to the classrooms were only a little above a meter so that the students would bow before they entered in and stood before the tutors in respect.
There is a 600 year old legend which came to our day, narrating that Kasım Sultan was decapitated by Tamerlane in this madrasa. Kasım’s sister swept her scarf with which she cleant the blood on the ground and the blood splashed all over the walls of the vaulted room. It is believed that there still are blood drops on the walls of this vaulted room.
Dara, Ephesus of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia’s most magnificent ancient site Dara is in Oğuz Village (Oğuz Köyü) located 30 kms South East of Mardin. The ruins of the ancient site and the village have interfered into each other and ruins can be seen all over the village. Archeological excavations that started in 2008 tells a lot from antiquity to our day even in a small fragment of the city. Syriac, Zarathustrian, and Turkish domed burials meet at the large necropolis of Dara and make it even more worth visiting.
The city was first built as a military garrison by the Emperor Anastasios (491 – 518 AD) in 506. It is also a very important link of the defensive chain of the Eastern Roman Empire’s Eastern border to the Sasanids. It is seen that the city was planned as a civilian residential area besides military reasons. Strong city walls, aquaducts, bridges, a cistern, a church, a baptistery, rock tombs, quarries, and cave houses meet the necessities of the city. The city’s glamour carried on until the early Medieval Era and then vanished.
If you have previously paid a visit to Ephesus, you should definitely visit Dara Ancient City (Dara Antik Kenti) that enlightens the history of Mesopotamia.
Museum City: Midyat
Midyat which has entered the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is located 70 kms away from Mardin, and is ready to take you to a journey in history with its stone mansions, churches, monasteries and Bazaars which all carry Medieval prints.
Midyat’s history goes back to the Assyrians and is an important center for the Syriacs. It is considered the center of Tur Abdin region and hosts the Syriac Metropolitan Bishopry (Süryani Piskoposluğu). Muslims, Christians and the Ezidis live together in harmony in this county that has become the sign of peace and tolerance.
Midyat Guest House (Midyat Konuk Evi), one of the symbolic structures of Midyat was also used for a number of Turkish TV series. This 3 stored stone house offers a terrace with views of Midyat, definitely worth seeing.
Midyat’s historical bazaar still offers Telkari – silver filigree embroidery by the Syriac artisanal masters, Syriac wine, and Midyat works – printed cotton cloth.
Estel, attached to Midyat at a later age, is a Muslim district with narrow cobbled alleys and old stone houses. The 200 year old Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami),Estel Han and Gelüşke Hanı offering regional goods are definitely worth seeing.
Mor Gabriel Monastery
Mor Gabriel Monastery (Mor Gabriel Manastırı) (also known as Deyrulumur – The House of the Priests) is the oldest standing Asyriac Orthodox Monastery (Asur Ortodoks Manastırı) in the World. Located at Turabdin, known as the hometown of the Syriacs at Mardin’s Midyat County, Mor Gabriel Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries with a history of 1600 years. The monastery was built by Mor Shmuel and Mor Shemun in 397 and flourisehd over the centuries with donations and contributions of the Roman Emperors. The impeccable structure was built by Midyat’s stone cut bricks, and is of utmost historical importance with structures left from 5th and 6th centuries, Byzantine mosaics, domes and portals.
The monastery which is accepted as the second Jerusalem had various names through history. In the early periods it was named after the founders and in the following centuries the name Dayro d’Umro meaning the house of the priests in Syriac derived into Deyr-el-Umur and then Deyrulumur in Turkish. The name Mor Gabriel, still in use today is after Mor Gabriel, the Metropolitan Bishop of Turabdin who lived during the 7th century and played a major role in improving the monastery, and was given sainthood later.
The towns commercial life is quite colorful and it is possible to see a variety of merchants and craftsmen. Authentic Bazaars offer various commodity to local and foreigner visitors. Kayseriye Mall (Kayseriye Pasajı), Revaklı Bazaar (Revaklı Çarşı), The Coppersmiths' Bazaar (Bakırcılar Çarşısı), The Jewellery Bazaar (Kuyumcular Çarşısı) and The Old Bazaar (Eski Çarşı) are still active and visited frequently.