Ad Deir

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ad-Deir ("The Monastery")
Al Deir Petra.JPG
Ad-Deir ("The Monastery")
CoordinatesCoordinates: 30°20′16″N 35°25′52″E / 30.33778°N 35.43111°E / 30.33778; 35.43111
LocationPetra, Jordan
Width48 m (157 ft)
Height47 m (154 ft)
Completion datemid-first century AD
Opening dateyes (only from outside)
Dedicated toObodas I (?)

Ad Deir ("The Monastery"; Arabic: الدير ), also spelled ad-Dayr and el-Deir, is a monumental building carved out of rock in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra.[1] The Deir was probably carved out of the rock in the mid-first century AD.[2]

Arguably one of the most iconic monuments in the Petra Archaeological Park, the Monastery is located high in the hills northwest of the Petra city center. It is the second most commonly visited monument in Petra, after the Khazneh or "Treasury".[3]

The huge facade, the inner chamber and the other structures next to it or in the wider area around the Deir probably originally served a complex religious purpose, and was possibly repurposed as a church in the Byzantine period.

Ad Deir in location, 2018


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.[citation needed] From the Monastery, one can view the stunning valleys of Wadi Araba and the gorges along with the semi-arid territory immediately around Petra.[4]

Exterior design[edit]

Scholars believe that the flat area in front of the Monastery was levelled 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.[5]

The rock-cut façade of the Monastery, 47 m (154 ft) high and 48 m (157 ft) wide,[2] 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.[6]

Interior plan[edit]

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.[7] The room is thought to have been painted and plastered, even though none of these decorations have survived into the modern day.[8]

Architectural style[edit]

The monastery is a spectacular example of Nabataean architecture. Its blending of architectural styles is a hallmark of the dynamic and hybridised nature of Petra as a whole.[3]

Architecturally, the Monastery follows classical Nabataean style, which is represented by a mixture of Hellenistic and Mesopotamian styles of construction.[citation needed] The Hellenistic influence can be seen in the columns of the Monastery, which are constructed in an abstracted Corinthian style.[9] 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.[8]

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 metres 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.[citation needed]



The role of the Deir, which has been probably built in the mid-first century CE,[2] cannot be assessed with certainty, with hopes that further excavations could offer an answer.[10][11] The suggestion that is served as a Nabataean royal tomb, based on external similarities with the Khazneh and the Tomb of the Roman Soldier is contradicted by the layout of the inner chamber and the apparently related structures in front of the Deir.[10][11] The interior design doesn't contain any obvious burial, but that wouldn't be exceptional for the tombs of Petra. However, the rock-cut chamber has large central recess, a cella or adyton (innermost sanctuary), accessed by two short staircases, similar to those leading up to the cult podium of the Temple of the Winged Lions, which would be unusual for a tomb, as well as two low benches along the side walls, which suggest that the chamber was built to serve as a biclinium.[10][11] Outside there are remains of a colonnade, an possible altar, and a round enclosure, possibly offering the frame for ritual performances which could be observed from a platform up on the plateau opposite the facade.[10][11] The Deir can be interpreted as a private palatial complex with mixed residential, funerary and religious function, similar to the Tomb of the Roman Soldier complex.[11] It could also have been, maybe together with the structures on the hill opposite the Deir, the site of large public religious events.[11]

An inscription that was found on the wall of a nearby structure while it was being cleaned in 1991, mentioned "the mrzh' of Obodat the god".[11][4] Mrzh' is interpreted as a private religious group with a limited number of members.[11] The inscription is located too far from the Deir, but may possibly indicate that the entire Deir complex was dedicated to the Nabataean king, Obodas I,[11] who was deified posthumously.

Byzantine period[edit]

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.[citation needed]

3D documentation with laser-scanning[edit]

The Monastery was spatially documented in 2013 by the non-profit research group Zamani Project, which specialises in 3D digital documentation of tangible cultural heritage. A 3D model can be viewed here. The data generated by the Zamani Project creates a permanent record that can be used for research, education, restoration, and conservation.[12][13][14][15]

In popular culture[edit]

The Monastery has appeared in several Hollywood movies, such as the 2009 film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Petra, Jordan". Martin Gray. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  2. ^ a b c Gunther, Michael D. "ad-Deir (Monastery)". Old Stones: The Monuments of Art History. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b Sanchez, Cruz. "Petra Lost and Found". National Geographic. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Petra: The Deir". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  5. ^ "The Monastery". National Geographic. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  6. ^ Markoe, Glenn, ed. (2003). Petra Rediscovered: The Lost City of the Nabataeans. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the Cincinnati Art Museum.
  7. ^ Mckenzie, Judith (1990). The Architecture of Petra. New York: Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ a b Macaulay-Lewis, Elizabeth. "Petra: Rock-cut Facades". Khan Academy. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Architecture in the Hellenistic Period". Boundless. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Healey, John F. (2001). The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World. BRILL. pp. 48–49. ISBN 9789004301481. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Alpass, Peter (2013). The Religious Life of Nabataea. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World. BRILL. pp. 62–65. ISBN 9789004216235. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  12. ^ Rüther, Heinz. "An African heritage database, the virtual preservation of Africa's past" (PDF).
  13. ^ Rajan, Rahim S.; Rüther, Heinz (2007-05-30). "Building a Digital Library of Scholarly Resources from the Developing World: An Introduction to Aluka". African Arts. 40 (2): 1–7. doi:10.1162/afar.2007.40.2.1. ISSN 0001-9933.
  14. ^ Rüther, Heinz; Rajan, Rahim S. (December 2007). "Documenting African Sites: The Aluka Project". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. University of California Press. 66 (4): 437–443. doi:10.1525/jsah.2007.66.4.437. JSTOR 10.1525/jsah.2007.66.4.437.
  15. ^ "Site - Petra". Retrieved 2019-10-28.

External links[edit]