Turkey // The Euphrates and Tigris basin //

The churches of Mardin

Mardin has a vibrant Christian heritage, and Christians and Muslims have always intermingled rather than living in separate quarters. The Syrian Orthodox Kirklar Kilise (Arbin Söhad in Syriac) or Church of the Forty Martyrs, which dates back, in part, to the sixth century, is the most welcoming church to visitors. The best time to attend is Sunday morning, at around 9am, when the local Süriyani population comes to pray, though you must dress respectfully and photography is forbidden.

Next door, Mar Yusuf Kilisesi (St Joseph’s) serves the town’s tiny Armenian Catholic population. Lacking a priest, it’s usually locked, and the congregation attends services at the Kirklar Kilise.

Mardin’s largest church, the Süriyani Katolik Kilisesi (Church of the Virgin Mary), is used by five families of Syrian Catholics, and adjoins the local museum. The Mar İşmuni Kilisesi, which has a typical Syrian Orthodox walled courtyard, stands at the bottom of the hill in the southeastern part of the old town, while back on the main street the newly restored Keldani Kilise (Chaldean Church) is easily spotted but usually locked.

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