Mar Giwargis Church of Bartella
|Occupation||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|• Mayor||Nisan Karromi|
|The town received thousands of Christian refugees from Baghdad and Mosul|
|Time zone||GMT +3|
Bartella (Syriac:ܒܪܛܠܐ, Arabic,برطلّة) is an Assyrian town located in northern Iraq which is less than 13 miles east of Mosul. The name Bartella is of Syriac origin, but its meaning is not fully agreed on by the historians. While Joseph Ghanima and al-Jawaliqy believe its from Bart Tilla meaning Daughter of Dew, the priest Putros Saba al-Bartelly believes it comes from Beth Rattly meaning House of Weights.
Between the 7th and 12th centuries, the name Bartella is lost in the shadows of history. However, according to Potrus Qasha, in 1153, Ignatius Elia'azar (1143–1164), the maphrian of Ashur, made Bartella his home and see, and the town became the center of Christianity in Athur. In Assyria (northern Iraq), the maphrian was the head of church, and reported to the Patriarch in Antioch. In 1859 (or 1860), the Syriac Orthodox Church under Patriarch Yacoub II officially abolished the position of maphrian (Patriarch Yacoub III reinstated the position of maphrian in India in 1964). When Ignatius Elia'azar made Bartella his home and see, dissatisfaction erupted in the community since Mar Mattai Monastery has been the traditional see of the Orthodox maphrian. A compromise was finally reached and he returned to Mar Mattai. However, it was agreed that he would make it a tradition to visit Bartella to emphasize its importance. Other maphrians who made their see in Bartella were Dionysius Saliba II (1222–1231), Gregorius Barsuma (1288–1308), Gregorius Mattai I (1317–1345), Gregorius bar Qeenaya (d. 1361), Athanasius Abraham II (1365–1379), and Cyril Joseph III (1458–1470).
As was the case with other Assyrian villages, Bartella was of the Church of the East faith. However, in 610, the people of Bartella accepted monophysitism according to Bishop Marotha of Tikrit, who, in 639, was ordained Maphrian of the East. In 1153, Maphrian Ignatius La'azer, Maphrian of Assur, chose Bartilla as his see. Bartilla was also chosen as the see for Maphrian Dionysius Saliba II in 1223; in 1231 this Maphrian was killed in a battle in the area of Tur Abdin.
Bartella gained fame again in 1284 when Maphrian Gregoris bin al-Ebry built the Yohanna bin Najara Monastery. Bartella was the home for the maphrians, Gregarious Barsoma who died in it in 1308, and was buried in Mar Mattai Monastery, and Maphrian Gregarious Matti I who died in 1345, and Maphrian Gregarious bin Qenaya who was ordained through the support of the Princes of Karamles, Matti and Sultan Shah, also with the support of Mar Denha II, Patriarch of the Church of the East. Unfortunately, Maphrian Gregarious bin Qenaya was forced to flee Bartella to Tikrit, and then to Baghdad where he was killed in 1361.
Bartella was also the home of Maphrian Athanasius Abraham II who died in 1379, and Maphrian Qorlos Joseph III, known as Ibn Nissan, who stayed only for a short time in Bartilla and left it to Hamas where he died in 1470. He was the last Maphrian who chose Bartilla as their home.
Disasters in Bartella
Bartella, like other Assyrian towns and villages throughout Assyria (today North of Iraq), faced attacks, plunder, and massacres throughout its long history. It was destroyed at least three times by Kurds and Persians.
In 1171, the marauders attacked Bartella and it was in this same year that they attacked Mar Mattai Monastery. The monks realized that the Kurds were going to attack again. Therefore, the monks agreed to sign a peace treaty with the Kurds to avoid further blood spell and paid the marauders, mostly Kurdish tribal irregulars, 30 golden Dinars. Despite the treaty, the Kurds gathered a bigger army of 1,500 and attacked the monastery, caused a crack in its wall, entered and killed 15 monks, while the others escaped.
In 1201, a confrontation took place between the Christians and the Moslem cleric in the town. The town's people complained to the mayor, who punished the Moslem cleric by beating. The cleric went to Mosul and on the following Friday, he gathered a huge crowd in the main big mosque and agitated them. The crowd soon marched toward Bartella to destroy it. However, when they reached the town, its gates were closed and could not enter. They returned angry and on their way, they passed by the church of the Tikritis (Mar Zena Church). They broke the doors, entered and plundered and spoiled everything they found inside and took all valuables in the church. Today, Mar Zena Church, situated in the al-Najjareen area near Bab al-Jisir al-Qadeem (the old bridge gate), has been converted to the al-Khallal mosque.
In 1261 and 1369, Kurds attacked Mar Mattai Monastery.
In 1738, the Persian king sent his army under Nargis Khan to Assyria where he destroyed many villages in Nineveh plain.
In 1743, Persian Nadir Shah destroyed additional villages after besieging and entering Kirkuk and Arbil. He attacked Bartella, killed many men and took many young men, girls and women away.
In 1756, 1757, and 1758 a great famine swept Bartella and many traveled to Kirkuk and other Persian towns to purchase new grain, where they faced plunder and robbing at the hands of bandits.
In 1789, Bartella was plundered again by Jolu Beg bin Bdagh, the Emir of Shikhan, during his war with the Arab Emir Mohammad bin Hasan al-Taa'i.
In August 2014, Bartella was totally occupied by Arab Salafi forces under the flag of ISIL after a bullet-less fall following a massive fleeing of the predominantly Christian residents who fled the city before the apparent anti-Christianity occupation by ISIL fighters. Approximately 2,000 Christian families abandoned the town in early August, seeking safety with the Kurds in Arbil.
Bartella's population is around 30,000, with the majority being Assyrians, one-third of which is Syriac Catholic and the rest, Syriac Orthodox. Bartella was Christianized in the 2nd century. With the emergence of the Christological controversies, the people and their church came under the dominion of the Church of the East (loosely known as Nestorian); however, it switched to the Syriac Orthodox Church (mistakenly and loosely known as Jacobite) around AD 610. On November 23–24, 2013 during the 2-day "Bartella Friends" conference held in Erbil to discuss the demographic change due to the Shabaki Kurds exodus fleeing Mosul and the surrounding villages towards Bartella from 2003 on, it was announced that the rate of Christians has dropped dramatically from 99% to 40%.
Churches of Bartella
Bartella and its vicinity has six churches, two partially demolished, one abandoned, one new, and two very old:
- Mar Aho Dama Church
This church was in existence in 1153 when was expanded by Maphrian Ignatius II La'azer. It was in use till 1386. Excavation in its ruins found the remains of three bishops which were moved to Mart Shmony Church.
- Mart Shmony Church
It's unknown when this church was first built, however, it was reinvigorated for the first time in 1807, It was rebuilt again completely in 1869, and It was reinvigorated again in 1971.
- Mar Giwargis Church
There are two churches with this name. The first is in ruins (recently renovated and reused) and is believed to be a monastery for St. Jerjis who built it around 1701. The second church was completed in 1939.
- Church of the Virgin
This church was built in 1890 at the time of Qorlos Elias al-Mosuli who died in 1911. However, an inscription dating 16th century mentions the name of the Church of the Virgin which contradicts the date of 1890 and assumes that this church was standing at that time.
- Al-Sayida Church
The complete demolition of Al-Sayida Church came in 1934 as its bricks were used to build the new Mar Giwargis Church.
- Ber Nagara Monastery
This monastery is named after Yohanan bin Nagara meaning "Yohanan of the Carpenters" since all his family were working as carpenters. It's believed that he used to worship pagans, and after converting to Christianity he was killed by his father and was buried in the village of Ba Agre. When this village was destroyed in 1282, his grave which was visited heavily by the locals was destroyed with it. That forced Maphrian Gregarious bin al-Ebry to build a temple for the martyr Yohanan in Bartella and was completed in 1285. On November 23, 1285, the remains of St. Yohanan, monks from Syria, and the 40 martyrs killed by the Persians were moved and reburied in this temple. Unfortunately, this monastery was destroyed in 1653 and again the remains were moved to St. Shmony church. Currently, all what exist of this monastery is a small room built recently as a reminder to its existence.
On December 8, 2004, Dr. Ra'ad Augustine Qoryaqos, one of Bartella's notables and a successful surgeon who worked as a professor at the College of Medicine in University of Anbar, was murdered in Ramadi. A group of three terrorists stormed his clinic while he was checking on his patients, shot and left him bleeding. An operation later failed to save his life. Dr. Qoryaqos left behind his wife and two children.
On August 10, 2009, a pair of large flatbed trucks packed with bombs exploded simultaneously shortly after dawn, destroying a Shabaki village known as Khazna, about 10 miles east of Mosul and a few miles away from Bartella. The blast shattered windows at many homes in Bartella.
On January 4, 2010, Bartella was attacked by a car bomb which was apparently aimed at civilians and the Mar Giwargis church. Although there were no fatalities, the bomb caused extensive damage to nearby shops and houses and injured 13.
On August 3, 2014, many families from Bartella left the city to Erbil, Ankawa and Shekhan, due to the battles between ISIL fighters and the Peshmerga forces to retake ISIL-controlled Gogjali district west of Bartella.
On August 6, 2014, Peshmerga forces guarding the city ordered the remaining residents to leave, and pulled back to Erbil at around 8:30 pm. Over the night, the city was almost completely empty of its predominately Christian residents. At around 4:30 am on August 7, the whole city was totally taken by ISIL militants in a bullet-less fall. On August 8, they burned liquor stores, looted houses and food stores, hung their flags on the church walls, pulled down the crosses and demanded the few remaining Christian locals of either converting to Islam, staying in the city and paying a yearly tax of $200 or face the "death by the sword" if refused to convert or pay.
In late August and early September 2014, it was reported that three residents of the few remaining Christians, died. One disabled, the other due to illness and old age and the third one was tortured then killed after he refused to convert to Islam.
In mid September 2014, the 12 remaining residents managed to escape by faking conversion.
- Canada Free Press, IRAQ: Christians Flee Northern Town of Bartella, 12 Sept 2014
some originally based on an article by bartella.com , licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.