Founded in 397 AD, the monastery of Mar Gabriel (Deyrulumur) is the geographical and spiritual centre of the Tür Abdin plateau. The oldest and most vital surviving Syrian Orthodox monastery in Turkey, it’s the seat of the metropolitan bishop of Tür Abdin. A working community, set among gardens and orchards, its primary purpose is to keep Syrian Orthodox Christianity alive in the land of its birth by providing schooling and ordination of native-born monks. There are thirteen resident nuns and three monks, as well as a fluctuating number of local lay workers, guests and students.
A lay person gives visitors guided tours of the monastery. The glittering, mosaic-covered ceiling of the apse of the main Anastasius (512 AD) church is particularly memorable, though Tamerlane stripped the gold ceiling of the nave. The tour also takes in the circular dining room, surmounted by a dome donated by the Byzantine empress Theodora early in the sixth century AD, and the Church of the Mother of God, dating back some fourteen hundred years.