Mar Mattai Monastery Tours, Mosul

#72 of 86 in Things to do in Iraq
Dayro d-Mor Mattai is located atop Mount Alfaf in northern Iraq and is 20 kilometers from Mosul. It is recognized as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in existence and is famous for its magnificent library and considerable collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. It is also the center of an Archbishopric, with Bishop Mor Timothius Mousa A. Shamani serving.
The monastery was founded in 363 by the hermit Mar Mattai who had fled persecution in Amid under the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate. According to Syriac tradition, he was involved in healing the sister of Mor Behnam and converting the brother and sister to Christianity. Their father, King Sinharib of Assyria initially killed his son and daughter but later recanted and awarded Mattai a place atop Mount Alfaf to establish his monastery. Mattai was quickly joined by a small group of Syriac followers, and under his leadership that community developed a true monastic ethos.
In 1171, neighbouring Kurds led several attacks on the monastery and were repelled by a coalition of monks and local Christians. The Kurds promised the monks they would cease their attacks and paid them 30 dinars and the monks sent the local Christians back to their villages in the belief that the monastery would be safe. Later, a force of 1500 Kurds succeeded in pillaging the monastery and killing 15 monks who did not find refuge in the upper citadel. The monks who survived the attack abandoned the monastery and relocated to Mosul. Upon hearing of the attack, the governor of Mosul attacked the Kurds, killing many; in retaliation the Kurds destroyed nine Nestorian villages, killing their inhabitants and attacked the Monastery of Mar Sergius.
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Mar Mattai Monastery Tours Reviews

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  • I highly recommend a trip to Mar Mattai. It is one of the highlights in Kurdistan an an absolute must.  more »
  • We were lucky to visit this beautiful and historically rich Monastery when it was under control of Kurdish Peshmarga who protect it from ISIS attacks and looting.  more »
  • Most beautiful monestary in Kurdistan! Definitely worth a visit, particularly on a sunny day. Spectacular views towards Mosul. The monestary is still under renovation, but when I visited in January 2020 the ongoing construction did not disturb my visit. There were only 2-3 other visitors, which added to the lovely experience.
  • Arguably the most scenic monastery in Assyria!

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