Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mar Matay Monastery

I'm almost done with my time in Iraq, but I want to share an experience from early in my stay here.  The second weekend after I arrived, I took a bus  Westwards with the other expats.  First we visited the Syrian Orthodox monastery of Mar Matay (St. Matthew).  Here is a link to the Monastery's website.

The monastery is built on the side of Mt. Maqloub about 20 kilometers North East of Mosul.
Besides housing the monks, the monastery includes accommodations for visitors, who can go on retreat here.

A view of the Nineveh Plain from Mt. Maqloub:



















The monastery was founded in the 5th Century by Mar Matay.  A modern building exists today in next to older ruins.

The front of the monastery:

















A view of the courtyard:

















We were ushered into a rectangular reception room, the first of many such rooms we would sit in during our trips through Kurdistan, where we were served tea.

The reception room:
(Photo credit: Walshes)

















Then we were led into a chapel.

The chapel interior:
video



Behind and to the left of the chapel, we entered a crypt that holds the remains of Mar Matay and several of his companions.

Mar Matay's Reliquary:

Several ancient headstones were built into the wall, each one concealing the mortal remains of 5th Century monks.  This one is covered in Syriac script:



This ornate headstone marks the spot where one of Mar Matay's companions, a martyr, is interred:


After leaving the crypt and exiting the church, I climbed some stairs to the monastery roof.

From the roof, one can see the ruins of the older monastery, which is presumably built on the ruins of an even more ancient one:


A closer look:

video



Before we left the monastery, we visited the gift shop.  Christian Iraqis are fond of tacky religious art, and a particularly egregious example was on display at this shop.  Below is a nativity scene that features a water fall and a spinning light ball.  Definetly the weirdest nativity scene I have ever encountered.


Well that's it for Mar Matay.  The Walshes have been blogging up a storm, and I am way behind; by the end of this week I hope to have posted a lot more.  Tomorrow, I'll tell you about our trip to Alqosh, home to communists, orphans, and the final resting place of a Biblical prophet.


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