Tur Abdin, Mardin, Turkey.

Let me start with somewhere that has been a long-standing passion, Turkey. But I will ignore completely those obvious tourist destinations such as the Mediterranean and the Aegean seaboards, Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Istanbul, and take you instead straight to Tur Abdin in the south-east, that part of the country so important in the history of early Christianity in general and Christian monasticism in particular. Here are a few photos of Tur Abdin’s remarkable ecclesiastical and vernacular architecture.

Tur Abdin is best accessed from the delightful town of Midyat. Midyat is a good transport hub with hotels, a pazar, some excellent restaurants and dozens of taxi drivers willing to take you inexpensively to where the buses and the minibuses do not reach. Midyat is also an excellent base from which to make the trip north to Hasankeyf, itself a remarkable destination, but one better known than Tur Abdin.

The churches featured in the photos below are in villages known to Syriac Christians as Idil (west of Cizre), Salah (north-north-east of Midyat), Hah, Beth Kustan and Zaz (all east of Salah). Idil and Hah lie along asphalt roads.

N.B. Here is some useful background information for teachers (and, indeed, others) who may wish to use the post for educational purposes.

The churches featured in the photos below belong to the Syriac Orthodox Church, a church which in the old days used to be misleadingly called “monophysite”. The churches most often deemed “monophysite” (Christ has one nature, the divine) are the Armenian Apostolic, the Coptic, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox churches. These churches are distinct from the “dyophysite/diaphysite” churches (the Protestant, the Roman Catholic and the “mainstream” Orthodox churches such as the Greek, the Russian and the Serbian Orthodox churches) which subscribe to the idea that Christ has two natures, the divine and the human.

However, the Armenian Apostolic, the Coptic, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox churches are better described as “miaphysite”. The “miaphysite” doctrine derives from Cyril of Alexandria who described Christ as being of one incarnate nature in whom both the divine and the human are united. While the prefix “mono” refers to a singular one, the prefix “mia” refers to a compound one.

The “dyophysite/diaphysite” concept of Jesus can be equated to a glass containing oil and water (the two natures, the divine and the human, are present in Jesus, but do not mix), while the “miaphysite” concept of Jesus can be equated to a glass containing wine and water (the two natures, the divine and the human, mix).

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