"Each part of the world recapitulates, shares in and experiences the history of the world as a whole"
Fernand Braudel

Door of the church Deir Mar Elian al-Sheikh

7th century AD
Al-Qaryatain, Badiyat al-Sham (desert steppes)

Deir Mar Elian al-Sheikh is located in Al-Qaryatain, a city in the Syrian Desert steppes. It is located on the road between Damascus and Palmyra which leads to the Islamic palace of Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi and the Roman dam of Kherbaqa. Al-Qaryatain is strategically positioned for trade routes and pilgrim routes, with Damascus to the south, Palmyra to the north-east, and Hawaren village and the bath of Abu Rabah, Sadad and Homs to the west. It formed an important station on the road of the commercial caravans between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean Coast. It was also an important station on the Silk Road as it was considered a necessary resting point where water can be found after the long passing of the desert. The Romans stationed garrisons of soldiers there to protect the commercial caravans. 

The prominent status of the city continued during the Byzantine period when the city’s importance increased because it was also an important path for pilgrims who were heading to Jerusalem. Thus, many churches were built on this road, and the church of Deir Mar Elian is one of these churches.

This object is the carved wooden gate of the original church. It is dated to the 7th century AD and it is one of seven preserved church-doors, which belong to the same period and exist in the Mediterranean region. The frames and fillers of this door are decorated with stylized floral and animal ornamentations fixed by nails on a smooth wooden panel.

The decorations are similar to those found in the Islamic art of the Umayyad period, in the palaces and mosques of Bilad Al-Sham. 

see also