Mar Matta



Like most American Christians, I suppose, my knowledge of the start and spread of the belief in Jesus as the Son of God started in Jerusalem after the four disciples wrote the Gospels. The belief in these four documents went from there along the coast up to Constantinople. It was also carried by sea to Rome and from these two centers it spread into western Europe. I was also aware that it moved through the Middle East, but I did not follow this path.

It was with some surprise that I read an article about a group traveling through the mountains of northern Iraq stopping in an ancient and impressively beautiful monastery named the Monastery of St. Matthew. After searching through multiple sources, I found It was established in 363 AD and is sometimes referred to by the name of its founder, the hermit Mar. While it is now not the complete religious institution it has been for most of its 17Cs, it still serves the geographic area north of Mosul. Even after being plundered several times, it remains an impressive building with a significant library and considerable collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts from its centuries of existence. It’s interior is magnificent with it’s chapel, living quarters and other religious areas. Until the war in Iraq, it still served as the religious institution serving Mosul and the valley and mountain area in which it is situated. I hope it will be resuscitated.

I knew little of religion (Islamic) in the East and was dumbfounded to find a Christian institution of this nature in what I took to be a completely Islamic country. It is a reminder that the knowledge stuffed away in my head is insignificant.

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