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The monastery at Deyrulzafaran near Mardin was built in 495 above a site originally used by sun worshippers – their slab-ceilinged temple still exists beneath the monastery.

Built on the site of a 4500-year-old pagan temple dedicated to solar worship – possible ‘Shamash’, a gallery made of huge rock walls with no use of mortar; still intact and visitable at the underground floors of the monastery in 5th century, Deyrulzafaran was the seat of patriarchate of all Syriac Orthodoxy until 1932. True to its original purpose, the monastery has 365 rooms in total, each symbolizing a day the Earth spends on its full cycle around the Sun. The impressive complex—which is more like a small village than a stand-alone religious edifice—is open (and indeed, friendly) to visitors (except, of course, its residential and the most sacred sections that are closed to all but monks.