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church of s:t simon d´zeyte

As you set off from Midyat towards Gercüş, after about 4 kilometers turn left and approach Hapses, a village of Mihallemi through fertile fields, on the horizon on the hillside on the right bank of the village, still standing in all its splendor, the church of S:t Simon d'Zeyte appears.

The first name of the S:t Simon d'Zeyte church was S:t Simon Kifo. However, it took this name after the church was renovated in 731 by S:t Simon d´Zeyte (d.734). The church is thought to have been founded in the 5th century. However, it was during the repair of the aforementioned S:t Simon d'Zeyte that the church underwent a major repair and was enlarged and built in a more magnificent way. Our knowledge of this comes from the biography of S:t Simon, written in the 9th century:

Hapses Mor Şemun d'Zeyte, who was the Metropolitan of Harran, visits the Mor Şemun [Mor Gabriel Monastery] Monastery of Kartmin for the third time. Like the local people, their villagers and relatives rejoice at this visit. Happy with this visit, Mor Şemun goes to his own village, Hapses, with a large group, and enters the village with great enthusiasm and cheers. Hosted by the villagers, Mor Şemun blesses the people, rebuilds and renews the church in the village, and meets all the needs of the church, to which he gifted many books. Formerly this church was Mor Semun Kifo or S:t Simon the Rock [one of the twelve apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and is the name he gave to Peter, who was the leader]. After Mor Şemun d'Zeyte enlarged and renovated the existing church, the church was named and known as the Mor Şemun d'Zeyte Church.

Our old church, which was built under the name of S:t Simon Kifo, is thought to be one of the churches built towards the end of the 5th century, with the financial assistance of Emperor Anastasius. Because the plan features of the churches built in that century, such as Mor Izozoel in Keferze, Mor Sobo in Hah, Mor Had Bşabo in Invardo, and Mor Stefanos in Keferbe, are almost the same. The construction of these churches is attributed to the architects, Theodore and Theodosius, who built the main church of the Mor Gabriel Monastery. It is known that dozens of magnificent churches were built in our Tur Abdin region with the financial assistance of the Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius (491-518). As our Syriac sources stated; The architects of these structures, which were built, were the brothers Teodore and Teodosius, sons of Shufnay, who were two local syriac architects who actually went to Istanbul, probably to get higher education, even if their names are greek.

Architect Elif Keser, who describes the architectural plans of the Syriac Orthodox churches and monasteries in Tur Abdin in his work titled Tur Abdin Syriac Orthodox Religious Architecture, states that while describing the architectural type of the S:t Simon d'Zeyte Church in Hapses village, it belongs to the same type as the churches mentioned above. The architectural style, also used by Gertrude Bell and referred to as the parochial type, is defined as follows: “It is the church plan consisting of a barrel-vaulted nave with arches and piers attached to the wall on the side walls, and a semicircular apse at the east end of the nave.”

Inside the church, which was restored and enlarged by S:t Simon d'Zeyte at the beginning of the 8th century, many valuable remains of the old church, which we think were built in the 5th century, are clearly located in the Medbho (altar) section.

Mor Şemun d'Zeyte Church is both an old building and architecturally very beautiful. With its interior and exterior appearance, height, size, surrounding gardens, and wide area in front of it, it attracts the attention and admiration of everyone who visits it.

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monastery of S:T LAZARUS

S:t Lazarus Monastery was built in the name of S:t Lazarus by bringing some of the sacred bones of S:t Lazarus from Harran, who died in the 4th century, by S:t Simon d'Zeyte, the metropolitan of Harran, in 731, on a hill overlooking the plain, south of Hapses village.

The monastery, surrounded by a wall about three meters high on all four sides, is located in a large area. A closed iwan is entered before a wide door at the left corner of the western wall. The main courtyard of the monastery is entered through the large round-arched door opening from the northern wall of the iwan. The place of worship is located on the eastern side of the courtyard, behind the section of arches resembling the arches in the second section of the S:t Simon d'Zeyte Church. The foundation of the monastery was made of voluminous cut stones, which are rarely seen in the foundations of churches and monasteries built in the region.

The plan type of the building is accepted from the Monastery Type Plan group, which is one of the four plan types determined by experts doing research on Syriac structures in the Tur Abdin Region. The church, which was built in this plan type, is a barrel-vaulted plan type extending in the north-south axis, with three naves in the east and a narthex on the west.

The church in Mor Loozor Monastery is modest and medium in size compared to the size of the monastery, and has a barrel-vaulted structure with its nave extending on the north-south axis in accordance with the Monastery Type Plan. The fact that the interior of the temple receives little light is due to the narrow and small windows opening to the space. The reason why the windows, which are small from the outside but widen inward, are like this, according to the prevailing thought in the region, the first reason is security against external factors and the second reason is the harsh winter months in the region, although they are short. Four windows, three on the south wall and one on the east wall of the nave, illuminate the interior of the church. As can be seen in many churches in the Tur Abdin region, one of these three windows on the south wall is above the other two. It is symbolically arranged to commemorate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Altar section is entered through two entrance gates, one large and the other relatively smaller. This small door is thought to be from the period when the altar (kduşkudşin) inside Medbah was built. A few rooms on the left above the temple were used as the living quarters of the monastery's inhabitants.

New additions stand out inside and outside the wall surrounded on the east. These additions have been added over time to meet new needs. Most of these additions were built by the monk Yakup from the village of Hapses, who was a monastic director in the early 1900s, who had a impressive voice, and was also a builder. Priest monk Jacob is the last monk to serve in the monastery. There is also a series of caves on the northwest side of the monastery. Although it is not known exactly for what purpose these very ancient caves, which are rectangular in shape, were used before, it is clear that these caves were used as the cemetery of the monastery after the foundation of the monastery. On the lower side of the caves, there is a fertile land towards the stream and various fruit trees, especially grape vines.

What makes S:t Lazarus Monastery special is the hermitage tower called estuno in its courtyard, which is not seen in any monastery in the Tur Abdin Region. This estuno of cut stone, hollow, round, 7 meters high and 2.40 meters in diameter with its pedestal on a square-shaped four-stepped plinth, is located in the large courtyard of the the monastery, which was built in 731 by S:t Simon d'Zeyte of Hapses. 

As I mentioned before, it is not without reason that the estuno is the first building that makes the monastery special and attracts attention. The word monastery comes from the Greek word “monazein” which means “living alone”. The essence of monastic life arose from the idea of ​​leaving the world to follow God and surrender oneself to Him. The Egyptian saint Antonios is considered the first founder of monastic life. However, this asceticism on estuno, which means utterly withdrawing from the blessings of the world, first dates back to the columned (Estunoro) saint Mor Şemun (390-459), who lived near Aleppo, Syria in the 5th century and is known to be the master of this road. This unique hermitage tower, which has survived to the present day in the Tur Abdin region, has been a shelter for priests from many places, especially from our village of Hapses.

Mor Şemun d'Zeyte also opened a school in this important monastery. He gathered students from the surrounding villages, especially from the village of Hapses, and took them to the monastery and made them become priests, monks and deacons. In this school opened, besides literary education, courses teaching theology, church rules and prayer method were also given.

Students coming out of this school have a beautiful voice, have reached the level of educators, most of them
assigned to spirituality. As stated in S:t Simon d'Zeyte's life story: "The people of this village are intelligent and agile people who love to read." While the number of reclusive, chaste and virtuous monks living in Mor Loozor Monastery increased in various periods, the monastery, whose reputation was increasing day by day due to the progress of the priests in virtue and performing miracles in the spiritual field, had an important position among the villages of Turabdin, Harran and especially Mıhallemi. In order to receive blessings from the monastery, visitors from the surrounding villages began to increase. Despite the fact that the neighboring villagers of Mihallemi became muslims since the 17th century, their love and respect towards the monastery did not decrease in the slightest. Mihallemi women sing about the honorable virtues of monasteries.

As mentioned before, Mor Loozor Monastery has an important position in our region and was one of our busiest monasteries. In every period, monks took part in the service of the monastery. However, after the endless oppression, brutal killings and sad events that took place in our region, especially after 1915, it lost its vitality and remained empty. Until the syriacs migrated from the village, rituals were held twice a year, on the second day of the Resurrection Festival and on New Sunday.

As the syriacs migrated from the village, the monastery became the target of greedy treasure hunters and artifact smugglers. In many parts of the monastery, ruthless excavations were made, the doors were broken, many tombs belonging to the spiritualists at the entrance of the temple were opened, the bones were taken out, great damage was done inside the temple, and the temple was almost plundered. Although the news about these heinous destructions has appeared in the press at various times, there has been no significant intervention by the authorities so far.

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church of s:t THEODUTe

Theodute, one of the respected Church Fathers of the time, was born in the north of Diyarbakir. Theodute, who raised himself in the way of God and in accordance with his commands, reconciled the resentful, visited the sick, helped the poor, always prayed and fasted, entered the Zukanin Monastery. He met a priest named Severius from Kınneşrin Monastery and became a student with him. Later, he returned to Kınneşrin Monastery and became a priest here. After completing his education in Syriac, Greek and various branches, he was assigned to Egypt and Diyarbakir. After Diyarbakir Metropolitan Atanasi passed away, Patriarch Mor Yulyane II appointeded him as Metropolitan to Diyarbakır. He retired voluntarily when he got older and spent the last part of his life in the Cave of Saints, near the Mor Abhay Monastery in the village of Kıllıt (Dereiçi). Mor Theodute, who was an influential preacher and once the secretary of Patriarch Mor Yulyane, passed away on August 15, 729.

When S:t Simon expanded and repaired the church in the village (Mor Şemun d'Zeyte Church) in 731, he established a small church in the name of Saint Mor Theodute on the right side of the entrance of the church. As we emphasized above, Mor Theodute was the secretary of the Patriarch Mor Yulyane of the time and also a close friend of Mor Şemun d'Zeyte. Until recently, in this small church built in his name, a service was held on the saint's day, and children were baptized in this small church until a new baptismal place was built in the big church. This small temple is still clean and usable.

Most of the villagers left the cradles in which they rocked their children, meaningfully, at the entrance of the temple to be entrusted to the protective wings of St. Mor Theodute, which was also used as a baptismal place.

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church of virgin mary

Near the village pond, near the houses of the Musa Asmar and Aho families, in the place of the Virgin Mary Church, which was a small church, there was a larger church in the name of the Virgin Mary, according to the village elders. However, for unknown reasons, this church was destroyed over time. But its ruins stood until the time this little church was built.

Musa Asmar Arun's sister Miksiye Rıhan, in consultation with the village priest, Abuna Cercis Aydın of Keferzeli and the village people, after about 1930, a small church, if not as big as the old church, at least symbolically, replaced the old church at his own expense. He wanted to build it. Welcoming this respectable idea, the authorities, without wasting time, summoned the master Yusuf from Midyat and had the church built. After the church was built, all kinds of maintenance of the church was undertaken by the family of Musa Asmar (Arun). In particular, Granny Meryem has a great contribution to this issue. In addition, in this church, when the congregation was busy in the village, sometimes noon prayers were held on Sundays.

In the 1970s, the roof of the church was covered with cement by Musa Asmar's son, Gevriye Arun, to prevent it from flowing in winter. In addition, the church door facing north was closed and a new door was opened towards the south. When Musa Asmar (Arun) family immigrated to Europe in 1976, Abdullah Kurt of the Hanno family took care of the church.

Visitors from neighboring Mihallemi villages, especially Christian and muslim villagers, visit this small church, whose door is open to visitors, and light candles inside the church.

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