Petra • Monastery - A Mirror of History and Craftsmanship

Probably built in the early 2nd century AD, the Monastery at Petra, also known as Ad-Deir, is one of the largest and most impressive monuments at the Petra archaeological site in Jordan. It is believed to have originally served as a Nabataean temple dedicated to King Obodas I before becoming a center of Christian worship. Located about an hour's walk from the center of Petra, the Monastery is accessible via a steep path comprising more than 800 steps. 

The architecture of this grandiose monument is typical of the Nabataean style with Greco-Roman influences. The Monastery has a facade measuring approximately 50 meters wide and 45 meters high. Inside, a single large room, probably used for religious rites, occupies most of the space. 

The importance of the Monastery goes beyond its simple use as a place of worship. It also serves as a testament to the cultural and historical richness of Petra and the architectural mastery of the Nabataeans. Recent studies suggest that the site could also have had an astronomical function, linked to solar and lunar cycles. 

Although less visited than other parts of Petra, such as the Treasury, the Monastery remains a must-visit destination for understanding the breadth and complexity of the Nabataean, Roman and Christian history of this fascinating ancient city.

Petra • Monastery ( Jordan,  )

Petra • Monastery

Petra • Monastery ( Jordan,  )

Petra • Monastery

Petra • Monastery ( Jordan,  )

Petra • Monastery

The Enigmatic Monastery of Petra: Unveiling a Desert Marvel in Historical Context


Jordan’s archaeological wonder, Petra, boasts a plethora of extraordinary sites, yet the Monastery, known locally as Ad-Deir, consistently captures the imagination. Likely constructed in the early 2nd century AD, the Monastery serves as a testament to the architectural prowess and wide-ranging influences of the Nabataean civilization.


The Genesis and Initial Purpose


Though the exact construction dates remain a subject of academic debate, the prevailing theory suggests that the Monastery was initially conceived as a Nabataean temple dedicated to King Obodas I. Subsequent uses saw the site morph into a Christian monastery during the Byzantine era, giving rise to its contemporary name.


Architectural Nuances


Spanning about 50 meters in width and 45 meters in height, the Monastery’s architecture is a blend of Greco-Roman designs infused with Nabataean elements. A single, large chamber resides at the center of the edifice, thought to have been used for either religious rites or civic ceremonies.


Historical and Cultural Significance


The Monastery serves as a cultural barometer, reflecting the opulence and diversity of Petra at its peak. Beyond its role as a place of worship or civic congregation, recent studies suggest the site could possess astral significances. Some researchers propose that the Monastery's positioning allows for the observation of specific astronomical events, such as solar and lunar cycles. However, this notion awaits further scholarly validation.


Insights and Discoveries


While the Monastery may not be the epicenter of archaeological finds within Petra, it still piques ongoing academic interest. One point of intrigue is the existence of a massive nearby water cistern that collected and stored rainwater for pilgrims and monks. This ingeniously designed system further underscores the Nabataeans' advanced understanding of water management.


Concluding Remarks


The Monastery at Petra serves as more than just an impressive monument; it's a window into the complex, diversified past of Petra. Whether initially designed as a temple, a monastery, or even as an astronomical observation point, its significance in the historical and cultural fabric of this ancient city is indisputable. It remains an essential stop for anyone wishing to delve into Petra's multi-layered history, offering invaluable insights into Nabataean, Roman, and Christian legacies.

Architectural Features of the Monastery at Petra



Located within the archaeological site of Petra, Jordan, the Monastery, also known as Ad-Deir in Arabic, stands as a monumental edifice of the ancient Nabataean city. Archaeological evidence suggests that this masterpiece was constructed in the early 2nd century AD and has undergone functional transformations over the years.


Dimensions and Facade


Upon approaching the Monastery, one is immediately struck by its enormity. The facade spans approximately 50 meters in width and 45 meters in height. It is primarily carved out of the mountain's pink rock. The entrance is marked by a grand doorway that leads to a singular chamber.


Architectural Elements


The design of the Monastery incorporates a harmonious blend of Greek, Roman, and Nabataean influences. Corinthian columns and capitals, of distinctly Greek style, blend with Nabataean urns and sculptures. Inside, a large single chamber, likely used for religious or civic ceremonies, dominates the space.


Structural Design


The Monastery is entirely hewn from the rock, a remarkable feat of Nabataean engineering. The construction process is known as "negative carving," where material is removed to create three-dimensional forms. This method is not only impressive from a technical standpoint but has also helped preserve the monument over the centuries.


Functionality and Adaptability


Interestingly, the Monastery, initially built as a Nabataean temple, was later converted into a Christian monastery during the Byzantine era. This speaks to its functional adaptability, as well as the flexibility of the original design that allowed for such a conversion.




The Petra site, including the Monastery, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.




The Monastery at Petra serves as an intersection point between multiple civilizations and artistic influences. Its architectural features reveal not just the technical prowess of the Nabataeans but also their openness to external cultural influences. It remains a must-visit for anyone interested in ancient architecture, providing a window into the complex and rich history of this region.

Monument profile
Monument categories: Monastery, Archaeological
Monument families: Monastery • Archaeological
Monument genres: Religious, Archaeological site
Cultural heritage: Nabatean
Geographic location: Petra • Jordan
Construction period: 2nd century AD
This monument in Petra is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1985 and is part of the serial nomination "Petra".

• Links to •

• List of videos about Petra on this site •

Petra, the capital of the Nabataeans • Jordan

• References •