Before we visited the monastery/fortress, we made a stop at The Virgin Mary, Guardian of Plants' Monastery inside the town. A priest there explained that in the 19th Century, Rabban Hormizd Monastery lost access to water, and so the Virgin Mary's Monastery was built to house the monks.
Some photos of the monastery church:
Photo Credit: Walshes
Photo Credit: Walshes
This is a memorial to a previous abbot of the monastery. It is written in Sureth and Arabic, with a short epitaph in Latin:
After leaving the monastery in Alqosh, our bus drive attempted to get us through the hairpin turns and up the mountain to Rabban Hormizd Monastery. The bus had to be backed up for an assault on each turn, and every time it backed up, the passengers felt like vehicle was about to fall off the edge of the cliff behind us. After we had gone about three quarters of the way up the mountain, the road got too steep for the bus, and we trekked up on foot. The monastery, built in a semicircle on the mountainside, is a sight to behold.
The road up the mountain:
Rabban Hormuz Monastery has a fascinating history. Founded in 640 AD, it was the home of saints and martyrs for over a millennium. The most significant event in the monastery's history took place in the 16th Century. In 1553, Shimun VII Yohannan Sulaqa, the abbot of Rabban Hormuz, traveled to Rome and offered allegiance to the Pope on behalf of the Assyrian people. He was consecrated as the first Chaldean Patriarch, and reigned from Rabban Hormuz until his martyrdom in 1555. Rabban Hormuz is the birthplace of the Chaldean church.
I got this photo off of Wikipedia. It was probably taken in the spring. When we were there, the grass was brown.
The wall of the Hornburg:
An ancient monk's cell, dug out of the mountainside:
The mountainside is dotted with caves hallowed out by the monks.
A system of caves and tunnels behind the monastery forms the catacombs.
Inside the catacombs:
I think this alcove may be a tomb:
Parts of the cave system are blocked off.
Before we left, I took this video from the monastery roof:
Our visit to Rabban Hormuz Monastery is one the highlights of my time in Iraq. One feels a sense of peace in that holy place, looking over the valley as a cool breeze blows over the mountains. I will certainly never forget it.