Zeynel Abidin Mosque Complex and Mor Yakup (Saint Jacob) Church
This proposed nomination includes Zeynel Abidin Mosque Complex and Mor Yakup Church, exceptional testimonies of coexistence of different religions for centuries in Nusaybin (ancient Nisibis) town of Mardin province (southeast Turkey). Mor Yakup Church is situated just 100 meters east side of Zeynel Abidin Mosque, and both buildings lie about 250 meters to the Syrian border.
Mor Yakup Church:
This church dedicated to Mor Yakup, a prominent Assyrian saint, who was born in Nisibis (now Nusaybin), and was brought up there. He was appointed to bishop of Nisibis with the decision of Episcopal congress, collected in Virgin Mary Church in Diyarbakır, in 309. He began to found city’s cathedral in 313 in Nisibis, the major commercial and political centre in East Roman Empire and the border of Roman and Persian Empires. He and his student Mor Afrem (Saint Ephrem), a great ascetic, teacher and hymn writer, were present at the First Council of Nicaea (modern İznik province in Turkey) in 325. After returned to Nusaybin, they started to build the Nisibis School where theology, philosophy, logic, literature, geometry, astronomy, medicine and law education was given. This school was founded on the ruins of the school dating back to the paganism and Mor Yakup contributed to the spread of Christianity in Mesopotamia through the students who were educated at there.
The present main church, one of the oldest religious structures of upper Mesopotamia, consists of two parts. The southern part of the building is divided into two separate parts with two opposing buttresses. In the east, there is a square place, which has 7 meter in width and length and northern and southern walls of it have two doorways. Furthermore, eastward wall has one apse. At the west side of the place, one arch opening to the second section of west is placed. The most striking feature of the east side of this place is wall decorations. There is a continuing frieze on the door’s mitigation arches, on the apses and on the western arch. In addition, another frieze was designed on the apse’s niche.
Buttresses, dividing the southern part, have Corinthian helmets except of sides that face to the west. There are door openings on north and south walls of the west place, and upper part of these openings was decorated with arches with excellent ornaments, which could be seen on east part of the doors. Middle buttresses end up quite close to one of the doors of the west place and give an impression that they were added later. Inside ornaments are quite remarkable as early and deep processing examples of decorations, which were used to 5th and 6th centuries in the northern Mesopotamia. In this respect, it could be dated back to 4th century. West side of buttresses could probably be constructed later period.
Eight of the door openings at the northern and southern walls have noticeable decorations. Relieving arches, resembling a horseshoe, on the door openings and pillars are covered with ornaments. Greek inscription takes place on the middle frieze of the south frontier of the church and said that “This baptistery was built with the contribution of priest Akepsyma in 571 (359/360), when Volagesus was metropolitan. Let them be remembered before God”. For this reason, this inscription is quite significant to become the first inscription mentioning word of “baptistery”.
Other constitutional elements that exist above and below the southern structure should be emphasized. A dome with an inscription, covering eastern square room, is dated to 1872. In addition, a chamber locating on the western side is known to be built in the same year. Below the eastern square chamber, capsule form crypt takes part and it has a sarcophagus, which is believed to belong to Mor Yakup.
The second part of the baptistery is a northern section which was built by using the north wall of the south section. Compared to the southern part, northern part’s length is equal to the southern part but its width is 9,5 meters, which is wider than southern section. In this section, a few structural levels can be observed. Ornaments of the apse of the eastern wall are similar to the apse of the northern structure. Northern wall of the church and western section’s door traces denoted that they were constructed in early stages. In the south direction, buttresses, resting against the north wall of the south section and closing magnificent figures of the doors, are present. Near the middle of this part, two buttresses are placed and these carry the church’s roof with buttresses of the south wall. Method of construction pointed out that these were built in 8th century. Similar buttresses are common features that can be observed in many churches in Tur Abdin, a hilly region in upper Mesopotamia. In front of the south part, there is a platform where the third nave was erected on it. Determined mosaic base on this platform was covered for protection purpose. Thus, this structure is a church converted from a baptistery.
Zeynel Abidin Mosque Complex:
Complex consists of mosque, minaret, and shrines of both Zeynel Abidin and his sister Sitti Zeynep -13th generation grandchild of the Prophet Muhammad- fountains, chambers of madrasah, graveyard and new apteshane. According to an epigraph on shrines, construction date of this complex goes back to 12th century.
The Mosque Complex, having -L- plan, was constructed with rough stones and has an open yard with a garden. The minaret on the east side of the yard was built in 1956. The mosque, owning north entrance, has a square plan “harim”, covering with cross vault supported with thick pillars. “Mihrab” and “minbar” of the mosque are new parts. Building was renovated later periods and ladies worship was added on the community section. Based on the inscription in the madrasa, “masjid” was expanded and converted to the mosque. Indeed, renovation epigraph stated that expansions were made with structural adding to the madrasah in 1891.
At southwest corner of the mosque, dome covered square place has shrines of Zeynel Abidin and Sitti Zeynep. These tombs are dome type cists and blanket with green cover on which verses of the Koran exists. Epigraph on the door of the shrine indicated that this building was constructed in 1159. In addition, renovation epigraph found on the facade of the Sitti Zeynep’s shrine has a date of 1821.
Western part of the complex, which was once a madrasah, today, is available for visiting of shrines, and also part of it is used for Koran courses. While north portion of the yard is covered with garden, west side has “şadırvan” (fountain), used for performing ablution. There is rather large cemetery in the eastern and western facades of the mosque and in the eastern side, cemetery has decorated, turbaned, stone type graves, belonging sheikhs of Tayyi Tibe and dating back to 19th century late Ottoman era.