Churches and Monasteries of Mosul, Iraq
Mosul has the highest proportion of Christians of all the Iraqi cities, and contains several interesting old churches, some of which originally date back to the early centuries of Christianity. Its ancient churches are often hidden and their entrances in thick walls are not easy to find. Some of them have suffered from overmuch restoration.
The oldest church Shamoun Al-Safa (St. Peter), dates from the 13th century and has a most devious approach. It also has a deep underground courtyard and a cemetery between high walls containing some ornate tombstones of Moslawi merchants. The Syrian Orthodox Church- Mar Toma (St. Thomas)- is another one with a deceptive. It stands solidly but almost undetectable behind enormously thick walls and is lavishly, even gaudily, decorated.
Inside dozens of bulbs produce a blaze of electric light. The altar-cross the altar-steps are nearly as bright as a film-set. There are painted in Arabic, an old Bible in Syriac on a lectern and a lime-green with dark blue borders. And, on one wall, a small illuminated and lass-fronted pigeon-hole in which are displayed the relics of St. Thomas above your head complicated chandeliers dazzle the eye. Luckily, the church equipped with electric fans and modern heaters. Mosul's summers are hot and the winter evenings bitterly cold.
The Church of St. Peter (Shamoun Al-Safa)
The oldest Chaldean church in Mosul, named after Shamoun Al-Safa or St. Peter. Previously, it had the name of the two Apostles, Peter and Paul. It was fouded in the 9th century, and it is considered a very important church due to its archeological value. It lies 5 m below street level. The church includes an epitaph of Shammas Raphael Mazagi who established a Chaldean printing press and a Patriarchal seminary next door of this church; and after the latter has been transferred to Baghdad in 1960, the building was inhabited by the nuns of the Sacred Hearts.
Church of St. Thomas
One of the oldest historical churches, named after St. Thomas the Apostle who preached the Gospel in the East, including India. The exact time of its foundation is unknown, but it can be assumed that it dates prior to 770 AD, since reference tell that Al-Mahdi, the Abbasid Caliph, listened to a grievance concerning this church on his trip to Mosul.
Mar Petion Church
Mar Petion who was educated by his cousin in monastery, was martyred in 446 AD. It is the first Chaldean Catholic church in Mosul, after the union of the Assyro-Nestorians with Rome. It dates back prior to the 10th century, and lies 3 m below street level. This church suffered destruction, and it has been reconstructed many times. A hall has been built on one of its three parts in 1942. As a result to that, most of artistic features have been confused.
Ancient Tahira Church (The Immaculate)
Near Bash Tapia, considered one of the most ancient churches in Mosul. No evidence helps to determine its exact area. It could be either the remnants of the church of the Upper Monastery or the ruined Mar Zena Church. Al-Tahira Church dates back to the 7th century, and it lies 3 m below street level. Reconstructed last in 1743.
Mar Hudeni Church
It was named after Mar Ahudemmeh (Hudeni) Maphrian of Tikrit who martyred in 575 AD. Mar Hudeni is an old church of the Tikritans in Mosul. It dates back to the 10th century, and lies 7 m below street level. First reconstructed in 1970. People can get mineral water from the well in its yard. The chain, fixed in the wall, is thought to cure epileptics.
St. George's Monastery (Mar Gurguis)
One of the oldest churches in Mosul, named after St. George, located to the north of Mosul. Most probably built late in the 17th century. Pilgrims from different parts of the North visit it annually in the spring, when many people also go out to its environs on holiday. It is about 6 m below street level. A modern church was built over the old one in 1931 abolished much of its archeological significance. The only monuments left are a marble door-frame decorated with carved Estrangelo (Syriac) inscription, and two niches, which date back to the 13th or 14th century.
Monastery of St. Matte
This famous monastery is situated about 20 km east of Mosul on the top of a high mountain (Mount Maqloub). It was built by Mar Matte; a monk who fled with several other monks 362 AD from the Monastery of Zuknin near the City of Amid (Diyar Bakir) in the southern part of Asia Minor (Turkey nowadays) and the north of Iraq during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363 AD). It has a precious library containing Syrianic scriptures.
Monastery of Mar Behnam
Also called Deir Al-Jubb (The Cistern Monastery), in the Nineveh Plain near Nimrud about 32 km southwest of Mosul, 12th or 13th century. The monastery is a great fort-like building rises next to the tomb of Mar Behnam a prince who was killed by the Sassanians, perhaps during the 4th century AD. A legend made him a son of an Assyrian king.
Other Christian historical buildings:
- The Roman Catholic Church (Built by the Dominican Fathers in Nineveh Street in 1893).
- St. Elijah's Monastery
- Mar Michael
- Mar Elias
- Mar Oraha
- Rabban Hormizd