Diyarbakır’s rock church to serve tourism
Located in the eastern province of Diyarbakır’s Eğil district, a 16,000-year-old rock church belonging to the Mor Yuhanna (John) Monastery, the walls of which are decorated with different cross motifs, will be brought to tourism.
Drawing the attention of visitors with the Assyrian Castle, where the prophets Zülkifl and Elyesa, whose names are mentioned in the Quran, were buried, as well as with the Kralkızı Dam Lake, wall cisterns and different historical structures, the Eğil district has been a focus of interest in culture and faith tourism.
While work is underway to open the closed tunnels in the Assyrian Castle, preparations are also being made for excavations to start around the castle. Cleaning and excavation works will be initiated in the area where the monastery is located along with the rock church. The monastery is named after Yuhanna, also known as John of Ephesus, but is a local of Eğil, who imparted education in the monastery for a while.
The goal is to bring the church, which has many different cross motifs on its walls and is believed to have been 1,600 years old, to tourism.
Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Eğil District Governor İdris Arslan said that the district has an important place in terms of faith tourism, especially with the tombs of prophets.
“Eğil is of great importance not only for Islamic history but also for Jewish and Christian history,” Arslan said.
“I hope the excavations will start in the church in the spring. We will open this church, which is decorated with many different cross motifs, to visitors. We will prepare this place for the service of the whole world as soon as possible,” he added.
Inviting local and foreign visitors to Eğil, Arslan said: “Let’s host our guests and get to know this beautiful region together. Let’s join hands and add value to this beautiful place.”
The church is like a ‘museum of the cross’
Professor İrfan Yıldız of Dicle University’s (DU) Faculty of Education also stated that Yuhanna was a local of Eğil, but he lived in Ephesus.
Yıldız said that he lived in the district for a while and had taught at the monastery.
The monastery continued its activities as an educational institution in the district for a long time, but was demolished later, Yıldız said, adding that though the rock church, which is a part of the monastery, has survived to this day.
Pointing out that the rock church has all the features that a church should have, Yıldız said that the church was important because it was a part of the Mor Yuhanna Monastery.
“In the church, we can find all kinds of cross motifs, which have an important place in Christian iconography. Cross motifs are embroidered in many different forms. The church is almost like a ‘cross museum.’ Its walls are made of crosses. I have traveled many places, and for the first time in my life, I saw a church with so many cross motifs. I invite scientists who are working in this field to come here,” he said, adding that rock churches were used, especially in the early Christian period.
Yıldız stated that they believe that Mor Yuhanna Monastery was built at the beginning of the fourth century A.D.
“We understand from the ruins that Eğil, the city of prophets and center of faith, is also an important settlement for the Christian faith,” he said.