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Arguably one of the most iconic monuments in the Petra Archaeological Park, the Monastery (ad-Dayr) is located high in the hills northwest of the Petra city center. It is the second most commonly visited monument in Petra, after the Treasury.
The rock-cut facade of the Monastery is 45 meters high and 50 meters wide. The structure was first constructed in 3 BCE as a monumental Nabataean tomb. An inscription that was found on one of the walls while the monument was being cleaned in 1991, read "the symposium of Obodas, the god". This inscription indicates that the building may originally have been dedicated to the Nabataean king, Obodas I, who was likely deified posthumously.
The tomb has several incised crosses carved into the wall, which may indicate that the structure was reused as a church during the Byzantine period.
The Monastery can be reached by ascending a nearly 800 step path (40 minute walking time) from the Basin. The Wadi Kharrubeh, the Lion's tomb, and small biclinia and grottos can be seen en-route to the Monastery. From the Monastery, one can view the stunning valleys of Wadi Araba and the gorges along with the semi-arid territory immediately around Petra.
Scholars believe that the flat area in front of the Monastery was leveled through human action in order to make the area suitable for social gatherings or religious occasions. Near the entrance of the structure are the remains of a wall and a colonnade. The façade has a broken pediment, the two sides of which flank a central tholos-shaped element . This element has a conical roof that is topped by an urn.
The interior layout of the Monastery consists of a single square chamber with a broad niche in the back wall. Each end of this niche contains four steps, and the niche itself is framed by pillars and a segmental arch. The room is thought to have been painted and plastered, even though none of these decorations have survived into the modern day.
Architecturally, the Monastery follows classical Nabataean style, which is represented by a mixture of Hellenistic and Mesopotamian styles of construction. The Hellenistic influence can be seen in the columns of the Monastery, which are constructed in an abstracted Corinthian style. These columns are thought to have been included for aesthetic purposes, as the entire structure is carved directly into the sandstone cliff and does not require the support that columns would traditionally provide in freestanding Hellenistic structures. The façade as a whole boasts a Doric entablature (superstructure containing moldings and bands lying above the capitals) but does not have figures in the metope, only simple roundels.
Mesopotamian style is evident in the single, large entrance and the plain, window-like depressions of the facade. The door to the main chamber of the monastery is 8 meters high and provides the sole portal for the entry of light into the structure. The presence of square-topped tower structures on either side of the Monastery also demonstrate the Mesopotamian influence present in the structure.
Coordinates: The monastery is a spectacular example of Nabataean architecture. Its blending of architectural styles is a hallmark of the dynamic and hybridized nature of Petra as a whole. The monument was repurposed many times during its history, taking on religious, social, and funerary significance at different points during the various occupations of Petra.
In popular culture
- "Petra, Jordan". Martin Gray. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Sanchez, Cruz. "Petra Lost and Found". National Geographic. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- "Petra: The Deir". Nabataea.net. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- "The Monastery". National Geographic. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- Markoe, Glenn, ed. (2003). Petra Rediscovered: The Lost City of the Nabataeans. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the Cincinnati Art Museum.
- Mckenzie, Judith (1990). The Architecture of Petra. New York: Oxford University Press.
- "Architecture in the Hellenistic Period". Boundless. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- "Petra: Rock-cut Facades". Kahn Academy. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
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