Mor Augin Monastery

Alternative Names

Mor Evgin, Augin, Awgin, Eugenius


ca. 4th century AD

MMM Documentation Dates
Spring 2015
Site Type
Religious Buildings and Complexes
Eskihisar (Turkey)
Mardin Province (Turkey)

    Surrounding Landscape & Ruins; Town of Girmeli

    Western Area between Gate House and Cloister

    Main Church (Exterior)

    Founder's Tomb Chamber

    Monks' Tomb Chamber

    Southern Terrace & Chapel of St. Mary (Exterior)

    Chapel of St. Mary (Interior)

    Northern Courtyard and Proximal Rock-Cut Dwellings & Niches

    Surrounding Landscape & Ruins; Town of Girmeli

    Historical Photographs

    The monastic complex of Mor Augin (St. Eugenius) is located on the steep cliffs of Tur ‘Abdin near Mardin in southeastern Turkey; the closest village is Eskihisar. According to local tradition, this is the most ancient monastery in the area, dating back to the early fourth century, with several later additions.

    The monastery complex is terraced into the Tur ‘Abdin cliff face, which is also dotted with several monastic cells. The whole complex sits on a platform at the foot of the cliffs, forming a citadel 500 m above the surrounding plains. High walls constructed of roughly hewn blocks protect the complex. Its entrance is on the west side. The entranceway consists of a narrow vaulted chamber that leads to a cloistered court (see the panorama). This court has been rebuilt several times; however, elements of the ancient structure are preserved. On the southern side is a series of five arches emerging from slender masonry piers. The western arch, which has been filled in, retains an old column, and another appears to be built into the pier in the northwest corner. In both cases the columns are crowned with Corinthian capitals.

    A door on the northern side of the cloister leads into the long, vaulted nave of the main church (see the panorama). Windows set in the upper part of the western wall illuminate the interior. The sanctuary is located on the eastern end, which is raised by a couple of steps above the level of the nave. On either side of the great arch of the sanctuary is a semi-free column with a 'basket capital.' The altar is covered with a domed brick canopy resting on two columns and two engaged columns. Two chambers located on either side of the sanctuary open into both the sanctuary and the nave.

    To the east of the cloister, there is a large burial chamber with a crypt accommodating the tombs of several monks (see the panorama). North of this chamber is a dark room containing the tomb of the founder, as well as that of his sister and those of his other family members (see the panorama). At the southern end of the monastery complex is a terrace flanked by the chapel of St. Mary (see the panorama). The chapel’s facade consists of three brick arches; behind the central arch lies a small square chamber covered by a brick dome (see the panorama). The dome sits on brick pendentives and is carried by columns with ancient capitals probably belonging to an earlier building on the site. Further to the east and behind the square chamber is a vaulted oblong chamber with an altar carved into the southern wall. There are two wells within the complex: one in the dark chamber and the other between the two courtyards.

    'Description & Iconography' general sources: Bell 1924, 310–312; Bell and Mundell Mango 1982, 3–5, 135; Hollerweger 199, 288–295.

    Several Inscriptions are found throughout the monastery.

    1. The first inscription is located in the northeast corner of the cloistered courtyard to the south of the church. Parts of the inscription have been covered by plaster, but it is still datable to 1117/18 AD. It reads: “In your name, O Lord of all, / may there be a memorial good / and acceptable before the God / and his Christ and his Spirit at my hand / (5) for Mar Sabrisho the bishop / metropolitan of Nisibis. / and he departed from this world of woes /?/… the year one thousand four hundred / (10) and twenty ( ) / Marre; this….. may he pray to…”
    2. The second inscription is dated to 1838 AD and is located in the northwestern corner of the same courtyard.
    3. The third inscription is found carved on the plaster of the vaulting of the north-south chamber immediately to the west of the courtyard. It reads: “It was completed in the year one thousand five hundred and twenty one, through the agency of Rabban Hawsi/and Rabban Joseph the architect from Gog(al), and in this year there came…” 

    'Inscriptions' general source: Brock 1980–1981.

    According to local tradition, the monastery was founded in the 4th century AD; however, the earliest known inscription in the monastery dates to the 12th century AD. The complex was repaired and rebuilt several times throughout its long history. Most of the rebuilding and restoration seems to have been carried out along the original floor plan, preserving the monastery’s original layout and considerable parts of the earlier masonry. Syriac inscriptions document the restoration work that took place in 1271 under the leadership of bishop Mor Abdisho and the direction of the priest Rahmon, who was also an architect (see 'Inscriptions').1  

    It appears that the Church of the East—later the Assyrian Church of the East—held the monastery until at least 1838, and that the Jacobite Church held it from at least 1842. Gertrude Bell, writing in 1924, indicated that the monastery had fallen into complete ruin after the decline of the Church of the East and that the then-current buildings of the monastery had been raised by the Jacobites.2 The monastery remained in full function until 1974, when the last Syrian Orthodox monk died. Today, the Monastery of Mor Augen is in the care of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Turkey. At the time when MMM team documented the site, a keeper and a scholar studying Syriac were living at the monastery, and it was providing mass service for three villages on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

    • 1. Brock 1981, 3.
    • 2. Bell 1924, 3.

    'History' general sources: Bell and Mundell Mango 1982, 3; Brock 1980–1981; Hollerweger 1999, 288–295.

    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).

    Brock, Sebastian P. 1980–1981. “Notes on Some Monasteries on Mount Izla.” Abr-Nahrain 19: 1–19. 

    Hollerweger, Hans, ed. 1999. Țur ‘Abdin: Living Cultural Heritage. Linz: Freunde des Tur Abdin. 

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