A protocol was signed Tuesday in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin for the permanent listing of four churches and five monasteries belonging to the late antiquity and medieval periods that were included in the World Heritage Tentative List by UNESCO last year.
The Mor Sobo Church, Virgin Mary Church (Yoldath Aloho), Deyrulzafaran Monastery (Mor Hananyo Monastery), Mor Gabriel Monastery, Mor Abai Monastery, Mor Loozor Monastery, Mor Yakup Monastery, Mor Quryaqos Church and Mor Azozo Church were all added to the World Heritage Tentative List on April 30, 2021. A candidacy file has been prepared for the sites to be accepted into the permanent list.
Speaking at a ceremony held in the Milli Irade Primary School conference hall announcing the cooperation protocol to be signed by the Midyat Municipality and the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mardin Governor Mahmut Demirtaş thanked those who contributed to this project.
Demirtaş, who emphasized that different cultures and people from different religions lived in peace in the past and the present day in Mardin, a city that has hosted countless civilizations, said: "We have many churches and monasteries. Hopefully, we will include nine of them on the candidacy list this year. For the remaining 60 or so sites, we will also prepare files on the churches and monasteries and apply to UNESCO for candidacy. We will resurrect these historical monuments in all our districts and incorporate them into tourism."
Demirtaş pointed out Mardin is a touristic city and that despite the pandemic, more than 500,000 tourists have stayed in the city, adding that close to 3 million people have visited the city for daily visits and that the number of visitors would increase even more with these works.
Cultural Heritage and Museums General Manager Gökhan Yazgı said that one of his responsibilities is to prepare a candidacy file for historical assets to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Yazgı explained that these preparatory works are the result of intense work carried out by the experts in the general directorate, often with local stakeholders in accordance with fundamental UNESCO conventions. "The occasion of our meeting here today will form the legal basis of this important cooperation through the agreement we will sign with our mayor of Midyat – the 'Management Plan of Late Antiquity and Medieval Period Churches and Monasteries in Midyat and its surroundings and the Protocol on the Preparation of the UNESCO World Heritage List Candidacy File.'"
Yazgı noted that there are approximately 69 monasteries and churches in the Tur Abdin region, nine of which were included in the World Heritage Tentative List last year.
Pointing out that these works were considered for serial nomination considering the period, originality, integrity and preservation status, Yazgı emphasized that these architectural works, which date to the sixth and eighth centuries and have common features, create an impressive landscape with the vineyards, olive and almond trees around them.
Yazgı added: "As some of the earliest examples of Orthodox Syriac monastic architecture, they bear witness to a distinctive architectural style. Following the entry into force of the protocol, which will represent one of the best examples of cooperation between central and local administrations, the parties will quickly begin the necessary work."
Midyat Mayor Veysi Şahin stated that the district has hosted many civilizations from past to present.
He noted that this culture of tolerance is still being kept alive.
"As a result of the hard work we put into the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage application, which we started in 2020, in coordination with the academic board, advisory board and technical committee, we investigated the historical, cultural and architectural features of the structures. We conducted technical study tours with the expert teams we created. We decided to work on churches and monasteries," he explained.
Şahin outlined that their studies indicated that these structures were very unique structures in the world. Subsequently, they made their application to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. After the application file was examined and approved by the ministry, it was sent to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Paris Office on April 15, 2021. Following the UNESCO examination, nine historical sites were included in the World Heritage Tentative List on April 30, 2021.
Pointing out that these structures have been held on trust and protected by Muslim societies until today, Şahin said that seven of the structures are located in the borders of Midyat and the remaining two are in the Artuklu and Savur districts.
"With the protocol we will sign, we will cooperate with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and start the works quickly thanks to the authorization we will receive from our ministry. By entering the main list as soon as possible, we will ensure that our ancient city is known, recognized and generates curiosity through the whole world," Şahin said.
Mor Gabriel Foundation President Kuryakos Ergün stated that the application both excited and moved them, and stated they believe that historical churches and monasteries will be granted the value they deserve once they are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Explaining that many buildings are actively used in addition to these, Ergün said: "As we recognize our values in these lands, where multiculturalism continues today, our awareness will increase in international platforms. As the Syriac community, we hope that these structures will be preserved and included in the UNESCO World Heritage List."
After the speeches, a protocol was signed between Yazgı and Veysi Şahin, the mayor of Midyat.
Şahin then presented a memorial plaque to Yazgı.