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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.
- Names of the monastery
- The Main Church
- The Dome of Theodora
- The Church of Virgin Mary
- Beth Qadishe (The Crypt)
- Information for tourists
- Photo gallery
Names of the monastery
This monastery has been known in a different names during the course of its history. It was first known as “Umro d Mor Shmuel w Mor Shemun” (The monastery of St. Samuel and St. Simon) after the names of its two founders. A shortened Syriac version of this name is also used i.e. Dayro d’Umro or Deyrulumur.
The monastery is also referred to as the Monastery of Kartmin after the nearby Assyrian village of Kartmin. However, after early 8th century we see it being called ofter as the Monastery of Mor Gabriel after St. Gabriel (d. 667) who was the bishop of Tur-Abdin and one of the most famous saints of this place for his ascetic life.
The Main Church
According to the founding story of the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, the Sons of Shufnai, Theodore and Theodosius build the Main Church in 512, with the generous donations by Anastasius, the Byzantine Emperor. The mosaics in the ceiling and on the floor of the altar represent but very little of its splended past.
These mosaics in the altar are one of the finest examples of art of Eastern part of the Early Byzantine Empire. The large stone in the northwest of the church, which is dated to 768/769 was brought there from the old kitchen and was used as a dough trough for some time although its original purpose of use is not known. The church was renovated in 1997.
The Dome of Theodora
The octagonal building which is known as the “Dome of Theodora” was sponsored by Theodora, the daughter of Arcadius in the first half of the 5th century. It was used as a dining room for a long time. The height of the dome of this octagonal building, which is build of stone and bricks, is the same as the height of the vault of the main church.
The building next to the “Dome of Theodora” is known as the “Old Kitchen”. The date of the building, which is carefully laid with bricks, goes back to the same period as the “Dome of Theodora”. It was used as a kitchen for a long time.
The Church of Virgin Mary
This church was probably build in the 6th century. It was greatly damaged as a result of the attacks and spoil the monastery suffered at different times. The Church of Virgin Mary that was in danger of collapsing was fully renovated in 1991 and was preserved in the present state. The paintings of Christ on the walls were done in 1992.
Beth Qadishe (The Crypt)
The Crypt also known as Beth Qadishe i.e. the House of Saints is a place where over 12 000 relics of saints and martyrs were buried. The upper building of the monastery were build in the last half-century and are the residence of the people in the monastery. At the present time around fifteen nuns and two monks are living there occupying separate wings.
Mocastic life is a tradition which the Syrian Orthodox Church has had from the early dates of Christianity. The monks and nuns live a life that is dedicated to the service of God and prayer. A typical day of the monks and nuns in the monastery today is spent with prayer and with the daily work of the monastery.
Thanks to the deep affection and religious commitment the Syriac community has to the monastery. It is through their good relationships and financial contributions beside other benefactors and by the great efforts of His Eminence Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas, the Archbishop of the Tur-Abdin, that the monastery is restored and preserved.
Information for tourists
The Monastery of Mor Gabriel is open to visitors and tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims are coming there from all around the world. It is also possible to stay with permission, but the Monastery closed after dark. It is toured with the help of a guide but to find good English speaking guide is a problem.
Opening hours: 09:30 AM – 11:30 PM / 01:00 PM – 04:30 PM
Phone: 0482 462 1425