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Saint George Church of Bartella
Saint George Church of Bartella
Bartella is located in Iraq
Coordinates: 36°21′8″N 43°22′47″E / 36.35222°N 43.37972°E / 36.35222; 43.37972Coordinates: 36°21′8″N 43°22′47″E / 36.35222°N 43.37972°E / 36.35222; 43.37972
Country Iraq
Governorate Ninawa
Municipality Al-Hamdaniya
 • Mayor Nisan Karromi
Population (2015)
 • Total 0
  30,000 prior to ISIS invasion
Time zone GMT +3

Bartella (Syriac: ܒܪܛܠܐ; Arabic: برطلّة‎‎) is an ethnic Assyrian and Christian town that is located in northern Iraq about 21 kilometres (13 miles) east of Mosul.

The name Bartella is of Assyrian Eastern Aramaic 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. The town's residents mostly fled to the Erbil region following the invasion of the town by ISIS in August 2014. Bartella was liberated from ISIS control on 20 October 2016 by Assyrian Christian militia forces.

Early History[edit]

In 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).

The Syriac orthodox Bishop Marotha of Tikrit, who, in 639, was ordained Maphrian of the East. In 1153, Maphrian Ignatius La'azer, Maphrian 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[edit]

Street of Bartella

Bartella, like other Assyrian towns and villages, faced attacks, plunder, and massacres at the hands of Muslim attackers throughout its long history. It was destroyed at least three times by the Kurds and the Persians.

In 1171, Kurdish 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 bloodshed. They 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 Assyrian Christians and the Muslim cleric in the town. The town's people complained to the mayor, who punished the Moslem cleric by beating him. 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 forcibly 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 the Nineveh plain.

In 1743, Persian Nadir Shah destroyed additional villages after besieging and entering Kirkuk and Irbil. 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 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 early August 2014, the Assyrian Christian town of Bartella was overrun by ISIL Islamic extremists.[1] The Christian population of the town fled, mostly to Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan region, joining thousands of other Iraqi Christians fleeing ISIL terror.[1][2][3]


Before the ISIS invasion, Bartella's population was around 30,000, with the majority being Assyrian, 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 Assyrian Church of the East (often incorrectly 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%.[4]

Churches of Bartella[edit]

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 bit 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.

Latest events[edit]

On August 31, 2004, three girls from Bartella were slaughtered while returning home from their work at a hospital in Mosul where they worked.[5] On November 19, 2004, two brothers from Bartella were killed while at work when a mortar shell fell on the shop they worked at in Mosul market.[5]

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.[5]

On June 25, 2006, a series of car bombs by Iraqi insurgents at a petrol station and a SCIRI headquarters rocked the town, injuring many.

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 16 km (10 mi) east of Mosul and a few kilometres away from Bartella. The blast shattered windows at many homes in Bartella.[6]

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 March 28, 2013, and during the passion week of Easter, a car bomb parked downtown not far from street of Bartella went off in the early hours of that day killing one local resident.[7]

On August 3, 2014, many families from Bartella left the city to Erbil, Ankawa and Shekhan, due to attacks by ISIL fighters. The Peshmerga forces were fighting them to retake ISIL-controlled Gogjali district west of Bartella.[8]

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 Assyrian 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.[9][10]

In late August and early September 2014, it was reported that three residents of the few remaining Assyrian 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.[11][12][13][14]

In mid September 2014, the 12 remaining residents managed to escape by faking conversion.[15]

On October 20, 2016, as part of the Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul, the Assyrian Nineveh Plain Protection Units[16] and Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) liberated Bartella from ISIL control. [17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nabih Bulos, Iraqi Christians displaced by Sunni militants seek to flee abroad, Los Angeles Times (September 18, 2014).
  2. ^ Mariano Castillo, ISIS overtakes Iraq's largest Christian city, CNN (August 8, 2014).
  3. ^ [1], NBC News (August 8, 2014).
  4. ^ (, Deutsche Welle. ""برطلة" المسيحية أصبحت شيعية بفضل القاعدة - مواضيع العراق اليوم - DW.COM - 29.11.2013". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "Christen Assyrians face Oppression and Murder in Iraq with the Rise of Islamists and Kurdish Power". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Sectarian Bombings Pulverize a Village in Iraq". The New York Times. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  7. ^ "عاجل ...عاجل . اصابة احد ابناء برطلة في انفجار سيارة في السوق الرئيسي داخل برطلة". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ CNN, By Mariano Castillo. "ISIS overtakes Iraq's largest Christian city -". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "Thousands of Iraqi Christians flee as Isis overruns their towns". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  11. ^ "وفاة فتاة في برطلي من ابنائها المتبقين في البلدة". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  12. ^ "وفاة رجل مسن من ابناء برطلي من المتبقين فيها". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  13. ^ "دخول". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  14. ^ "Islamic State Tried to Force One of the Last Christians in an Iraqi Town to Convert, Then Punished Him in a Horrific Way When He Refused". 3 September 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  15. ^ "12 Assyrians Who Were Held By ISIS Escape By Faking Conversion". Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Iraqi Special Forces Join Mosul Offensive Against Isis". 20 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2016. 

some originally based on an article by , licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

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