Mor Mattai Monastery

  (Redirected from Mar Mattai Monastery)

Dayro d-Mor Mattai (Syriac: ܕܝܪܐ ܕܡܪܝ ܡܬܝ;The Monastery of St. Matthew, Arabic, دير مار متى)[1] 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.[2] It is also the center of an Archbishopric, with Bishop Mor Timothius Mousa A. Shamani serving.

Monastery of St. Matthew
The Monastery of Saint Matthew and its environs 08.jpg
Mor Mattai Monastery
Mor Mattai Monastery is located in Iraq
Mor Mattai Monastery
Location within Iraq
Monastery information
Other namesDayro d-Mor Mattai
OrderSyriac Orthodox Church
Established363 A.D.
Dedicated toMor Mattai
Locationnear Bartella, Nineveh
Coordinates36°29′24″N 43°26′34″E / 36.49°N 43.442778°E / 36.49; 43.442778Coordinates: 36°29′24″N 43°26′34″E / 36.49°N 43.442778°E / 36.49; 43.442778


Mor Timothy Mosa Alshamany (2015), Archbishop of the monastery
Mor Mattai Monastery

The monastery was founded in 363 A.D. 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 Sarah, 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 the 12th century, after storming a nunnery in Khudida, Kurds attacked the monastery for four months with 1,000 horsemen and foot soldiers. The monks burnt the ladders to prevent entry. Then, two large boulders were rolled against the walls from above and caused a hole which the Kurds tried to force their way in. The monks successfully fought back with stones and darts. Then, they repaired the walls. Abbot Abu Nser, the monastery superior, lost an eye in this battle. Eventually, the Kurds were bribed with the gold and silver from the churches, and afraid of a Mongol attack, they retreated.[3]

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 Assyrian villages, killing their inhabitants and attacked the Monastery of Mar Sergius.[4]

In 1369, another Kurdish attack on the monastery damaged many manuscripts. During the 19th century, Kurds looted the monastery numerous times.[5]

The monastery is currently maintained by the Syriac Orthodox Church, and serves the small farming village below. Every year, Christians of various church denominations gather in the monastery on September 18 to commemorate the day of Mar Matti's death.[6]


A council or a synod as it was sometimes called is a big church conference attended by all the metropolitans and bishops of the church. It's usually headed by the Patriarch. There were 3 synods (councils) that convened in St. Matthew Monastery throughout its history

First Synod (628 A.D.) This synod was held to renew the convenient of union between the St. Matthew's Monastery and the Syriac Orthodox See. It was headed by St. Matthew's Monastery Metropolitan Mar Christophorus and attended by John, (secretary of the Patriarch Mar Athanasius I), Bishop Jirjis of Sinjar, Bishop Daniel of Banuhadra (modern Duhok), Bishop Gregroius of Baremman, and Bishop Yardafne of Shahrzoul. After long discussion, all the attendees along with 3 other monks from the Monastery traveled to Antioch to meet with the Patriarch Mar Athanasius to conclude the union discussion and get his blessings to ordain the 3 monks as bishops to fill some vacant dioceses in the east.[7]

Second Synod (628 A.D.) The second synod was held in November 628 after returning from the trip to Antioch. It was headed by Mar Christophorus I, and attended by Mar Marutha, the newly ordained metropolitan of Takrit, and the rest of Eastern bishop. They set in order the dioceses of the East numbering twelve bishopric seats. By the authority of Christophorus I, the council issued twenty four canons intending to enhance the position of the metropolitan of St. Matthew's Monastery while overlooking the interest of the metropolitan of Takrit.[7]

Third Synod (1930 A.D.) The Synod was presided over by Syrian Orthodox Patriarch MOR Ignatius Elias III (1917-1933) and moderated by Mor Severus Aphrem Barsoum (1889-1957), the then Metropolitan of Syria and Lebanon (later Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum). The Synod discussed post-war challenges such as the huge numbers of refugees, issued new canon laws, and sought to organize church affairs. Particular challenges included managing properties and endowments in different emerging nation-states in the Middle East and the globally scattered diaspora. Special attention was given to the situation of the Syriac Orthodox Church in India. The Synod issued 41 resolutions and enacted general law for the denominational synods for the Syriac Orthodox church that had 32 articles.[7]


St. Matthew Monastery had rich libraries that had thousands of manuscripts throughout its long history. However, most of those manuscripts were lost to a huge fire in 480 A.D. and in the many attacks from many different hostiles enemies. Today, there's only 224 manuscript left in its library. The oldest manuscript is a copy of the New Testament and it dates back to 1222 A.D[8]


The Syriac Orthodox Church had 3 Patriarchs that studied and graduated from St. Matthew's Monastery.[7]


This is a list of all the Mephryonos that studied and graduated from St. Matthew's monastery. Mephryono of the East is a church title that was bestowed on a position below the Patriarch to manage the affaires of the eastern dioceses of the Syriac Orthodox church. This position was created in the past because of the political divisions and wars between the Byzantine Empire in the west and the Persian Empire in the east. This position doesn't exist today.[7]

  • Mar Marutha (d. 649)
  • Denha (649-659)
  • John I (d. 688)
  • John II (758-785)
  • Gregorius I, Matta (1317-1345)
  • Matta I (1712-1727)
  • Li’azar IV (1730-1759)

Mor Mattai Monastery MetropolitansEdit

This is a partial list of all St. Matthew Monastery's Metropolitans. There are gaps where the monastery didn't have a residing metropolitan for various reasons. One reason, it was abandoned for long periods of times due to attacks from various hostile armies.[7]

  • Bar Sohde (480)
  • Garmay (544)
  • Tubana
  • Yeshu' Zkha
  • Sahda
  • Simon
  • Christophorus I ( 628)
  • John I (686)
  • Anonymous (686)
  • John II (752)
  • Daniel (817)
  • Quryaqos (824)
  • Sarjis (Segius) Christophorus II (914)
  • Timothy Soghde (1075-1120)
  • Bar Kotella (1132)
  • Anonymous (1152)
  • Saliba (1189-1212)
  • Severus Jacob I (1232-1241)
  • Gregorius John III (1242-)
  • Ignatius (1269)
  • Sawera (Severus) Yeshu' (1269-1272)
  • Basilius Abrohom (1278)
  • Iyawannis (1290)
  • Jumu'a, son of Jubayr (1665)
  • Severus Ishaq (1684-1687)
  • Severus Malke (1694-1699)
  • Iyawannis Matta I (1701-1712)
  • Gregorius Li'azar (1728-1730)
  • Timothy 'Isa (1737-1739)
  • Iyawannis John IV (1743-1746)
  • Cyril Rizq Allah (1782-1770)
  • Cyril Matta II (1770-1782)
  • Cyril 'Abd al-'Aziz (1782-1793)
  • Eustathius Musa (1793-1828)
  • Gregorius Elias I (1828-1838)
  • Cyril Matta III (1846-1858)
  • Cyril Denha (1858-1871)
  • Cyril Elias II (1872-1921)
  • Qlemis (Clement) V,John (1923-1926)
  • Dionysius John VI (1935-1942)
  • Timothy Jacob II (1946-1966)
  • Severus Zakka Iwas (1966-1969) (Later Ignatius Zakka I)
  • Dioscorus Luka Shaya (1980-2005)
  • Timothy Mosa Al-Shamany (2006–Present)

Mor Mattai Monastery SuperiorsEdit

The monastery Superior is person who would manage the daily activities inside and outside the monastery. This person was usually a priest or a monk (Rabban). Some of them went to be Metropolitan or bishops in the Monastery or other Syriac Orthodox Churches. This is a partial list only.[7]

  • St. Matthew
  • Mar Zakai (Late 4th Century-Early 5th Century)
  • Mar Abrohom
  • Addai (628)
  • Hawran (914)
  • Bar Kotella (1130-1132)
  • Anonymous (1174)
  • Hasan Bar Shamma' (1243-1253)
  • Rabban Abu Nasr (1261-1290)
  • Rabban Matta II, Bar Hanno (1317).
  • Rabban lshaq I (1675-1684)
  • Rabban Tuma I (1712-1721)
  • Rabban Li'azar (1727-1728)
  • Rabban Matta III (1831-1833)
  • Rabban Jacob (1917-1918, 1920–1921, and 1928–1929)
  • The Chorepiscopus Sulayman (1921-1923, and 1926–1928)
  • Rabban lshaq II (1929-1935)
  • The Chorepiscopus Elias Sha'ya i (1942-1943 and 1945)
  • Rabban Saliba (1943)
  • Priest Tuma II (1945-1946)
  • Priest Elias Bihnam (1964)
  • Rabban Hanna Daoud Al-Kass (1967-1970)
  • Rabban Ishaq III Saka (1970-1980)
  • Metropolitan Dioscorus Luka Shaya (1980-2005)
  • Metropolitan Timothy Mosa Al-Shamany (2015–Present)

Metropolitans & BishopsEdit

This is a list of Syriac Orthodox church Metropolitans and bishops that studied and graduated from St. Matthew's Monastery but served in different dioceses. The list also contains two brothers names that were not Metropolitans or Bishops.[7]

  • Ith Alaha, bishop of Marga and Gomel (628)
  • Aha, bishop of Firshapur and al-Anbar (628)
  • Hananya, metropolitan of Mardin and Kafartut (793-816)
  • Shamu'il, metropolitan of Sijistan
  • Ishaq, bishop of Armenia
  • Tuma, metropolitan of Tiberias
  • Philotheous, metropolitan Afra-Khurasan
  • Athanasius, bishop of Sadad
  • Athanasius Behnam bar Sammana, bishop of Banuhdra (Duhuk in northern Iraq) (1265-1279)
  • Iyawannis Denha, bishop of Baghdad (1265)
  • John Wahb, bishop of Jazirat ibn 'Umar (1265-1280)
  • Sawera Yeshu', bishop of Azerbayjan, St. Matthew's Monastery, and Tabriz (d. 1277)
  • Dionysius Joseph, bishop of Tabriz (1277)
  • Mikha'il Mukhlis, bishop of Baremman (1278)
  • Denha John, bishop of the Mu'allaq Monastery (1278)
  • Iyawannis Ayyub Gob), bishop of Banuhadra (modern Duhok) (1284)
  • Dioscorus Gabriel of Bartulli, bishop of Jazirat ibn 'Umar (1284-1300)
  • Abd Allah of Bartulli, metropolitan of Jazirat ibn 'Umar (1326)
  • Dioscorus Jirjis, metropolitan of Jazirat ibn 'Umar (1677)
  • Ishaq Saliba, metropolitan of the monastery of Mar Abai (1697)
  • Athanasius Tuma, metropolitan of the Patriarchal Office and then of Jerusalem (1731-1748)
  • Dionysius Behnam Samarchi, metropolitan of Mosul (1867-1911)
  • Julius Behnam of 'Aqra, metropolitan of the Jazira (1871-1927)
  • Gregorius Bulus Behnam, metropolitan of Mosul, then Baghdad (1952-1969)


This is a list of Syriac Orthodox Church fathers and other clergy that are buried in St. Matthew's Monastery[7]

  • St. Matthew
  • Mar Zakai
  • Mar Abrohom
  • Bishop,The Martyr Mar Bar Sohde, of blessed memory, (d. 480)
  • Maphryono John V, of Sarug
  • Maphryono Gregorius Jacob of Melitene
  • Maphryono Gregorius Bar Hebraeus
  • Maphryono Gregorius Barsoum al-Safi
  • Maphryono Gregorius I, Matta of Bartulli (1317-1345)
  • Maphryono Basilius IV, Li'azar of Mosul (1730-1759)
  • Bishop Severns Jacob of Bartulli (1232-1241)
  • Bishop Athanasius Behnam bar Sammana, bishop of Banuhadra, Duhok (1265-1279)
  • Bishop Eustathius Musa Lashshi of Mosul (1793-1828)
  • Bishop Cyril III, Matta of Mosul (1846-1858)
  • Bishop Dionysius VI, John Mansurati (1935-1942)
  • Bishop Cyril Denha of Hbob (1858-1871)
  • Bishop Cyril II, Elias of Mosul (1872-1921)


  1. ^ Thomas A. Carlson et al., “Mor Matay — ܕܝܪܐ ܕܡܪܝ ܡܬܝ ” in The Syriac Gazetteer last modified June 30, 2014,
  2. ^ Michael Goldfarb, Ahmad's War, Ahmad's Peace (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005).
  3. ^ Howorth, Henry (1888). History of the Mongols: From the 9th to the 19th century , Part III. New York: Burt Franklin. p. 180.
  4. ^ Moosa, Matti (28 April 2012). "The Christians Under Turkish Rule".
  5. ^ "Monastère de Mor Mattai - Mossul - Irak" (in French). Archived from the original on 3 March 2014.
  6. ^ "القديس مار متى الناسك والشهداء مار بهنام وسارة ورفاقهما الأربعين". Archived from the original on 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i IGNATIUS YACOUB III, History of the Monastery of Saint Matthew in Mosul, Translated by Matti Moosa. Gorgias Press LLC, New Jersey 2008
  8. ^ Ghanim Al-Shamani, St. Matthew’s Monastery Manuscripts List. Oriental Cultural Center, Duhok, 2010