Old Churches and Monasteries, Baghdad
The Armenian Orthodox Church (Meskenta Church)
One of the oldest churches in Baghdad, known as Church of Meskenta and as the Church of the Virgin Mary, located in Midan Square off Al-Rashid Street.
It was first built in 1640 AD by the Armenians on a piece of land granted to them by the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV. Then it changed hands to the Nestorian Christians before it eventually went back to the Orthodox Armenians possession.
Every year, on August 15 special rituals are held in this church for the Assumption of Virgin Mary to heaven. The church is visited all year round by Baghdadis from various sects to present their offerings and gifts.
It is also known to people as the Church of Meskenta (Shirin) after the name of a woman died a martyr in the 5th century. Certain traditions related to local folklore are practiced there such as the Iron chain which some people put round their neck, where if it unlock automatically, prayer acceptance and wishes come true. This church was reconstructed in 1967 and maintenance works and extensions have continued in last few years.
The Latin Church (The Roman Catholic Church)
Built in 1866 near Shorjah in Al-Khulafaa Street. The site was used in 1731 by the Carmelite Fathers to practice their religious rituals in a small church. At that time, it was called the Temple or Monastery of St. Thomas; the apostle. The current church, completed in 1871, is shaped like a cross with towering dome about 32 feet high.
There are many statutes within the church and its walls are decorated with rare paintings. At the present, the church is at the disposal of Orthodox Copts working in Iraq. In the courtyard of this church lies the Iraqi scholar and linguist, father Ansatas Mary the Carmelite who was born in 1866 and died in 1947.
The Chaldean Church
A Chaldean Cathedral and a center of the Chaldean Patriach seat, situated in Ras Al-Grayyeh, near Wathba Square opposite of Shorjah market place, it is one of the largest existing churches in Baghdad. It was built on the grounds of a small church dating back to 1838 AD, and used to be called the Church of Mary Mother of Sorrows.
Its construction was completed in 1898, and later specious balconies were added. Baghdadi architecture excelled in making ornamental compositions of bricks on the external walls of the church. This church was reconstructed in 1967 where it was enlarged and had a cloister added to it.
The Syrian Catholic Church
The first church to be built by the Syrian Catholics in 1841, located in Ras Al-Grayyeh opposite of Shorjah market place between the Latin and the Chaldean Churches. Later on, it was named The Virgin Mary Church and was re-opened in 1863. The interior of the church as well as its altars are decorated with ornaments. Its main door is considered a masterpiece of workman ship and precision in wood engraving.
The Armenian Catholic Church
Situated at Al-Ghazal Souq in Al-Khulafaa Street. Its construction started in 1840 and completed in 1844. At the beginning, it was called Church of Savior's mother, then Church of Assumption. This church was partly reconstructed in 1883 and had its altar and doors renovated.