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Treasures of the Orient: the monastery of Mar Matti

EN - Wednesday, 09 September 2020

Suspended in the rocks overlooking the Plain of Nineveh, the Syrian-Orthodox monastery of Mar Matti was founded in 363 by Saint Matthew the Syrian, an hermit from southern Turkey having fled persecution under the emperor Julien the Apostat.

Three centuries later, the region is conquered by Muslim army. In 1171, Kurdish troops attacked the monastery, which resisted thanks to Christians who came to support the monks. They end up submitting to their Kurdish abusers by pouring a tribute of thirty dinars. Barely Christian defense militias dissolved, the Kurds seize the monastery they loot and kill 15 monks. Survivors flee to Mosul as soldiers massacred Christian villagers and destroyed St. Serge's Monastery.

Afterwards, the monastery suffered two new attacks in 1369 and then in the XIXth century. Seemingly inaccessible, this place served as a refuge for many Christian families, forced to flee their homes under the offensive of the Daesh army in 2014.

Today, the five hermitage monks live to the rhythm of prayers and important religious feasts like Saint Matthew, on September 18, which welcome many pilgrims.

They also protect a priceless treasure of ancestral manuscripts, as well as the grave of their founder.

The monastery offers breathtaking views of the plains of Nineveh and remains a symbol of the Christian presence in northern Iraq.