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A MuseumThat Smells Like History: Mardin Museum

Exhbiting the city’s archaeology and history with acollection over 45.000 artefacts from the Paleolithic Age todate, Mardin Museum is a true institution of education, learning andcommnication, exceeding the classical definition of museums as “placesto protect and exhibit artefacts”.

The Museum exhibits ceramics, barands and cylindiricalseals, coinage, oil lamps, figurines, teardrop bottles, jewelry and vases thatbelong to the Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, Early Iron Agesand the Assyrian, Urartian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq, Artuqids and theOttoman Eras.

The most attractive pieces of the Museum are 3 largeearthenware jars of gold and silver coinage and jewelry that were brought todaylight in 2009 during an infrastructure work in Mardin’s SürekliVillage of the Kızıltepe County. These pieces are believed to tbe the Treasuryof the Forty Thieves.

The Museum also hosts archeological and etnographicalexhibit halls, conference halls and recreational lounges.

Mardin’s Sign: The Grand Mosque of Mardin.

The Grand Mosque, the oldest and mostimportant temple of Mardin was built in 1176 during the time of the ArtuqidSultan Kutbettin Ilgazi. Reflecting the architectural features of the ArtuqidPeriodThe Grand Mosque becomes a sign of Mardin with itssegmented dome and minaret. History reports that the original structureconsisted of 2 minarets of which ony one could surive to our day. The currentday ornate minaret with a cylindirical body was built during the 19th century.

The minaret, visible from every other conrer of thecity, s one of the first visuals on remembers about Mardin. Some ofthe Syriac writers claim that the building was converted froma church. Even if the building is not converted from a church, it is possiblethat a church was here in earlier times.

Deyrul Zafaran Monastery

Deyrul Zafaran derives from deyr and zafaran meaningmonastery and saffron in Arabic respectively, after the saffron growingin the terrain around the monastery. Deyrul Zafaran Monastery wasbuilt on the grounds of a previous Temple of the Sun belonging to the Shamsi anda compund that was used by the Romans as a citadel during the5th century. Deyrul Zafaran housed the Patriarchy for 640years and is still a very important center of the Syriac Church aswell as the residence of the Metropolitan Bishop of Mardin.

The first printing press of the region was purchasedby the Patriarch of the time in 1876 from England andtransported to the monastery to print books in Syriac, Arabic, Ottomanand Turkish, until 1969. The monastery is a beautiful example ofarchitecture with domes, arched columns, wooden engravings as well as interiorand exterior masonry, and offers mosaics from that period even today.

The double courtyarded monastery hosts a Temple of theSun besides Mor Hananyo’s Domed Church, The Church of Virgin Mary,and  The House of the Saints. 

Mor Behnam, the Church of the Forty Martyrs

This church is located in the Şar District ofMardin’s Center. A rectangular plan church built on the Eastern side of a longcourtyard, parting into 12 thick columns and arches was built in 569 anddedicated to the Syriac Saint Mor Behnam and his sister Saro. Thechurch is impressive with its 400 year old wooden doors, vegetable dyedcurtains, the bell tower and its house and niches with embroidery like masonry.The relics of the Forty Martys wss brought to the curch in 1170, which stillserves as the Metropolitan Bishopry of Mardin.

Zinciriye Madrasa

This building, located in the Madrasa District justbelow the citadel, was commissioned  by Melik Necmeddin İsain the year 1385. Melik İsa, who fought agains Tamerlane andhis army, was imprisoned here for a while and therefore the building is alsoknown as Sultan Isa Madrasa.  The Madrasa hosts the Shrineof Sultan Isa and a number of old inscriptions. Due to its locationabove town, it was used as an observatory in the past, and the MardinMuseum was here before moving to its current location. The masonry onthe main portal and the segmented domes of this double courtyarded and duplexplanned madrasa has such grandeur that is worth seeing. It is also a greatpleasure to watch over the panorama of Mardin from theMadrasa.

Kasımiye Madrasa

There is no original inscription left from the KasımiyeMadrasa yet it is known that the construction started during the ArtuqidPeriod and carried on during 1487 – 1502 by Sultan Kasım ofthe Akkoyounlular Period. Known as the largest of the structures inMardin, this duplex structured and open courtyard planned madrasa with brickstone and terra cotta used together embraces the endless MesopotomiaValley.

Surviving to date, the madrasa was usedmultifunctionally at its day. There are symbols of astronomy and medicalsciences 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 andreaches the pool. This pool was designed with a philosophical approach toarchitecture to reflect human life from birth to death. The spring stands forbirth followed the first steps, and then drifts, followed by a long and narrowperiod of youth; then the pool symbolizing age and weariness followed by thestill waters symbolizing death and finally the large drifting pool symbolizingthe Day of Judgment…

It is known that at some stage, the pool was used forteaching astronomy using the reflection of the stars on the still water. Thedoors to the classrooms were only a little above a meter so that the studentswould 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 inthis madrasa. Kasım’s sister swept her scarf with which she cleantthe blood on the ground and the blood splashed all over the walls of thevaulted room. It is believed that there still are blood drops on the walls ofthis vaulted room.

Dara, Ephesus of Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia’s most magnificent ancient site Dara is inOğuz Village located 30 kms South East of Mardin. The ruins of the ancient siteand the village have interfered into each other and ruins can be seen all overthe village. Archeological excavations that started in 2008 tells a lot fromantiquity to our day even in a small fragment of the city. Syriac,Zarathustrian, and Turkish domed burials meet at the large necropolisof Dara and make it even more worth visiting.

The city was first built as a military garrison bythe Emperor Anastasios (491 – 518 AD) in 506. It is also avery important link of the defensive chain of the Eastern Roman Empire’sEastern border to the Sasanids. It is seen that the city wasplanned as a civilian residential area besides military reasons. Strong citywalls, aquaducts, bridges, a cistern, a church, a baptistery, rock tombs,quarries, and cave houses meet the necessities of the city. The city’s glamourcarried 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 that enlightensthe history of Mesopotamia.

Museum City: Midyat

Midyat is located 70 kms awayfrom Mardin, and is ready to take you to a journey in history withits stone mansions, churches, monasteries and Bazaars which all carry Medievalprints.

Midyat’s history goes back tothe Assyrians and is an important center for the Syriacs.It is considered the center of Tur Abdin region and hoststhe Syriac Metropolitan BishopryMuslims, Christians andthe Ezidis live together in harmony in this county that has become thesign of peace and tolerance.

Midyat Guest House, one ofthe symbolic structures of Midyat was also used for a numberof Turkish TV series. This 3 stored stone house offers aterrace with views of Midyat, definitely worth seeing.

Midyat’s historical bazaarstill offers Telkari – silver filigree embroidery by the Syriac artisanalmasters, Syriac wine, and Midyat İşi printedcotton cloth.

Estel, attached to Midyat ata later age, is a Muslim district with narrow cobbled alleysand old stone houses. The 200 year old Grand Mosque and EstelHan offering regional goods are definitely worth seeing.

Mor Gabriel Monastery 

Mor Gabriel Monastery (alsoknown as Deyrulumur – The House of the Priests) is the oldeststanding Asyriac Orthodox Monastery in the World. Locatedat Turabdin, known as the hometown of the Syriacs at Mardin’sMidyat CountyMor Gabriel Monastery is one of the oldestmonasteries with a history of 1600 years. The monastery was built by MorShmuel and Mor Shemun in 397 and flourisehd over thecenturies with donations and contributions of the Roman Emperors.The impeccable structure was built by Midyat’s stone cut bricks, and is ofutmost historical importance with structures left from 5th and 6th centuries,Byzantine mosaics, domes and portals.

The monastery which is accepted as the secondJerusalem had various names through history. In the early periods it was namedafter the founders and in the following centuries the name Dayro d’Umro meaningthe house of the priests in Syriac derived into Deyr-el-Umur andthen Deyrulumur in Turkish. The name Mor Gabriel,still in use today is after Mor Gabriel, the Metropolitan Bishop ofTurabdin who lived during the 7th century and played a major role inimproving the monastery, and was given sainthood later.

Historical Bazaars

The towns commercial life is quite colorful and it ispossible to see a variety of merchants and craftsmen. Authentic Bazaars offervarious commodity to local and foreigner visitors. Kayseriye Mall,Revaklı Bazaar, The Copper Bazaar, The Jeweliers’ Bazaar and The Old Bazaar arestill active and visited frequently.