The monastery Mor Hananyo, also known as Kurkmo Dayro (in Syriac) or Deir ez-Za`faran (in Arabic) meaning the “Saffron Monastery”, is situated some five kilometers east of Mardin (in South eastern Turkey), in a shallow basin half-way up the side of the mountain ridge. This is one of the most known and ancient structure of Upper Mesopotamia, and the religious center of the Süryani Kadim (Syrian Orthodox) Community. The origins of this imposing monastery goes back to the 5th century; mosaics remaining from that period have still been present. From 1293 until 1932 it was the official seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East. Tradition associates the monastery’s foundation with a certain Shleymun (Solomon), about whom little or nothing is known.
The name “Saffron monastery” is said to derive from the saffron dye used in the building’s plaster-work; the correct name, however, is the “Monastery of Mor Hananyo (St. Ananias)” who was the Metropolitan of Kfartuta (793-800). It was he who renovated the monastery buildings after a period of decline in 793. An earlier dedication, to Mor Augen, is still remembered much later by some scribes who refer to it as the monastery of Mor Hananyo and Mor Augen. Further important renovation work was done by an energetic bishop of Mardin, John, who died at the monastery on 12th July 1165. The most ancient buildings of the monastery are the main church, the Church of the Mother of God, and the Beth Kadishe. They are said to have been erected on the ruins of a Roman castle and a pagan temple. The monastery possessed a fine library with valuable manuscripts and books.