Explore The Euphrates and Tigris basin
The most beautiful Syrian Orthodox building in Turkey is undoubtedly the remote, monastic Church of the Mother of God (İndath Aloho in Syriac, Meryemanna in Turkish). To reach it follow the Hasankeyf road for 3km, then turn right for Dargeçit. After 17km turn right (signed Meryemanna/Hah) and follow the road for 6km to Hesterek village, turn left here for Anıtlı – also known as Hah – a further 7km away. The church, on your right as you enter the village, is justifiably regarded by the local Süriyanis as the jewel in the Tür Abdin crown. This fifth-century foundation sports a two-storey wedding-cake-like turret with blind arches topped by a pyramidal roof; the archways and lintels are also heavily ornamented. The church has a virtually square ground plan, with a transverse nave, but what’s striking about the domed interior are the gorgeously ornate Corinthian capitals and an elaborate, relief-carved frieze. The village itself is fascinating. Once the centre of a community of several thousand, with over 44 churches in the vicinity, there are now just sixteen families remaining. At the centre of the village, atop a small rise, are a group of fortified houses where some five thousand Christians held out for months against a vastly superior Ottoman force in 1915 – with no Christian lives lost. Downhill from here are the remains of the church of Mor Bacchus, dating back to the second century, and en route back to the Church of the Mother of God, is the sixth-century church of Mor Sovo, destroyed by Tamerlane.
Heading back towards Midyat, and just to the left of the road by the main right turn for Anıtlı, is the prominent hilltop village of Zaz. What from the main road looks to be a castle turns out on closer inspection to be the Syrian Orthodox church of Mor Dimet (fourth century AD). It’s a striking place, inhabited by Jacob, a Süriyani returned from six years’ exile in Sweden and Germany, a nun, and a few Kurdish families. Further back towards Midyat, 10km along the Dargeçit road and then 3km north on a dirt track, the important Mar Yakoub monastic church in Baraztepe (Salah) village is substantial, but lacks the grace of the Church of the Mother of God at Anıtlı. Returning to the Dargeçit road, continuing east for 2km and then turning south for a further couple of kilometres, you reach the slightly later church of newly renovated Mor Kyriakos, with its small courtyard, in the mixed Christian/Kurdish village of Bağlarbaşı (Arnas). Its architect also built the Mar Azazael church on a knoll at the edge of Altıntaş (Keferzeh) village, about 7km east of Mor Kyriakos.