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My Tour In Iraq’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 22 Mar 2009

Location: North of Mosul, Iraq

MapDair Rabban Hurmiz is a orphanage and school that's cared for by the the Chaldean Church (previously, The Church of the East). The school is appropriately translated to House of Angels.

The location is approximately 34 miles north of Mosul and approximately 2 miles north-east of Alqush.

The Dair Rabban Hurmiz monastery is the most famous and most visited monastery in Iraq. Dair Rabban Hurmiz was the holy seat of the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East for several generations. Situated directly above a large cave in the Alqush mountain. The monastery overlooks a famous valley called 'Gali Al-dair' meaning 'valley of the monastery'. 'Shara D'Rabban Hurmiz' meaning 'the holiday of the monk Hurmiz' occurs every third Monday following Easter Sunday. Until a few years ago, the monastery was unreachable by automobile nor did it have electricity or running water. The monks relied on mountain springs and oil lamps for everyday life. The monastery contains several wings including a church with several alters, a burial site for saints and patriarchs( Baith Sahdeh) , a library currently containing manuscripts as old as 1497, 'Baith Sahdeh' or 'house of martyrs', 'Baith U'matha' or 'house of baptism', and over 40 small caves used by monks scattered all over the Alqush mountain. Some of the caves contain numerous carved writings pertaining to the date of establishment as well as other historical details. The monastery also includes large rooms carved in the mountain stone including a large dining room able to hold over 100 monks. This truly amazing 800 sq. ft. (15 ft. high) dining room is completely carved inside the mountain with small vertical portions left uncarved to act as support beams. The church contains the following alters:

The Raban Hurmiz Alter : The oldest and simplest in the monastery. The north and west walls are part of the mountain and the floor is made up of stone coffins. Includes stone carvings of 14 different types of crosses. The later is a monolithic stone type with a center groove containing white sand called 'khnana'. This 'khnana' is sacred to Assyrian worshipers and is usually brought from burial sites of certain saints.

The Mar Antonios Alter: Situated east of the Rabban Hurmiz Alter. This small (8x3 meters) room includes an alter with two finely carved boxes used to store the holy book, the cross, and various oils used in mass. The alter is made of white marble-like stone.
The holy Trinity Alter: The largest later of the monastery. Considered the formal church at the location. Contains Syriac carvings dating to the 15th century. The part of the monastery was renovated in 1485, 1667 (after an earth quake) , 1817, 1846, 1849, 1930.

The forty Martyrs Alter: Built in 1820 under the care of F. Gabrial with the blessings of the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Yosip II of Amid** The patriarchal burial Alter: Contains 9 graves belonging the patriarchs from the house of Aboona who led the Church of the East from 1497 to 1804.
Three graves belong to:
Mar Shimun V, 1497
Mar Shimun VI , 1538
Mar Shimun VII, 1558
Mar Elia V, 1591
Mar Elia VI, 1617
Mar Elia VII, 1660
Mar Elia VIII, 1700
Mar Elia IX, 1724
Mar Elia XI, 1804.

Establishment: Rabban Hurmiz came to the Alqush Mountain after spending several years in Dair Resha (The head monastery) with his colleague, Rabban Yozadaq who also left to the Nuhadra mountain. The monastery was built in 640 AD with the assistance of two Ninevite princes who witnessed miraculous healing by Rabban Hurmiz.*

History: Built during the patriarchship of Isho-yab II (628-644 AD). Became a famous location of learning and religion especially during the 10-12 century which brought up such Syriac fathers as Mar Yohanna of Halabta, Isho Barnon, Mar Ipni Maron, and others. The monastary was then attacked by Mongols under the leadership of Taimorlang. The monastic life returned to Dair Rabban Hurmiz a few years after, but on a smaller scale.

The 16th century witnessed the division of the Church of the East when Yohanna Sulaqa sided with Rome and established the Chaldean Church. In 1653, the Kurds attacked the Monastery causing the Patriarch, Mar Shimun IX, to move to Telkepeh (Telkaif) for a short period. Mar Elia XI returned to the monastery in 1714 and became the center of the Chaldean patriarch for four generations. In 1722, over 60 monks fled the monastery after the attack by Nader-Shah, and took refuge in the nearby Mar Mikha church in Alqush. Monastic life returned once again in 1808 under the care of F. Gabiral Danbu. The monastery continued successfully until the Kurdish uprising in North Iraq between 1963-1974 which caused the monks and priest to vacate the mountain. The Chaldean Church was able to return to the monastery in 1975 and has continued to care for it till today.