Dayro d-‘Umro, Dayro d-‘Umro d-Mor Shem ‘un of Qartmin, Monastery of Mor Shmuyel, More Shem ‘un and Mor Gabriel, Dayr ul-‘Umr (Arabic)
The Monastery of Mor Gabriel is located about 2 km north of Qartmin in the district of Midayt in southeastern Turkey. This sizeable monastery complex, originally established in the 4th century AD, includes churches, crypts, guest rooms, and barns. The ancient structures have been built and rebuilt, and new buildings and sections were added to accommodate the monastery’s evolving functions and needs over time.
Description & Iconography
'Description & Iconography' general sources: Bell and Mundell Mango 1982, 8–9, 33–35; Hollerweger 1999, 72–74.
The Monastery of Mor Gabriel has a long history dating back to the 4th century AD, if not earlier (there is some evidence for pre-Christian religious activity at the site). The monastery was founded around 350 AD by two monks, Shmuyel of Eshtin and his disciple Shem ‘un of Qartmin. By 397 it had gained the attention of the eastern Roman emperor Arcadius, whose reign was marked by benefactions to a certain monastery in the east, presumably this one. Between 395 and 397 the Great Cistern and the main vault had been built, and funds were granted to the monastery every year. During the reign of Theodosius II, the “House of Saints” (corresponding to Dome of the Egyptians), the Church of the Virgin, and the Beth Qadishe (crypt) were built.
The emperor Anastasius directed further care and attention to the monastery. According to the Syriac records at the monastery, gold and craftsmen were sent for the construction of a splendid prayer hall, built in the middle of the abbey and surrounded by porticos on the north, south, and west. The altar in the main sanctuary was constructed using marble and images depicting a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man were sculpted on its four sides. An image of a cherub is said to have been above the altar. A bronze dome overhead was supported by four pillars. In the sanctuary there was a lamp of gold suspended on a chain of silver. The description refers further to floor mosaics with gilded tesserae and bronze trees on either side of the entrance to the sanctuary.
The monastery's later history is characterized by intervals of persecution and other challenges, but it has survived them all. Today, its active community that is involved in farming and schooling and, on certain occasions, providing protection for the local Christian population. However, it is currently facing another round of political turmoil.
'History' general sources: Palmer 1999; Barsoum 2008.
Barsoum, Ignatius Aphram I. 2008. The History of Tur Abdin, translated by Matti Moosa. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias.
Bell, Gertrude. 1924. Amurath to Amurath. London: Dutton.
Bell, Gertrude, and Marlia Mundell Mango. 1982. The Churches and Monasteries of the Tur ‘Abdin. London: Pindar. Reprint, with new preface, notes, and catalogues, of Gertrude Bell’s The Churches and Monasteries of the Tur ‘Abdin (1910) and Churches and Monasteries the Tur ‘Abdin and Neighboring Districts (1913).
Hollerweger, Hans, ed. 1999. Țur ‘Abdin: Living Cultural Heritage. Linz: Freunde des Tur Abdin.
Palmer, A. 1999. “The 1600-Year History of the Monastery of Qartmin (Mor Gabriel). In Țur ‘Abdin: Living Cultural Heritage, edited by Hans Hollerweger, 37–46. Linz: Freunde des Tur Abdin.