An unnamed Chaldean scribe in the city of Mosul finished a Syriac manuscript (now in the Vatican) on “the middle day” (i.e. 16) of March, 1918, in the closing months of World War I on the Middle Eastern front. The manuscript was paid for by “the priest Peter Hakim of Amid,” who had presumably fled his home city (now called Diyarbakır) during the massacres a few years before. There are many Syriac manuscripts copied in the early 20th C, but this manuscript has a difference: after identifying Mosul as the place where the manuscript was copied, the scribe added a list of religious sites in Mosul, both Christian and Muslim. In particular, he lists fifteen churches, four monasteries, and over fifty mosques in and around the city.
In light of the destruction of many religious sites in Mosul, both Christian and Muslim, by ISIS in the past two months, I thought it would be interesting to give some of the highlights of the list in my own translation from the Syriac and Garshuni list (which remains unpublished):
“And it was copied in the capital city of Mosul, which is also known as Athor and Nineveh, which is placed on the bank of the river Tigris.
“And in Mosul there are churches of the assembly of the Chaldeans: the church of the patriarchate, Meskinta; another of Simon Peter; and the church of St. George the Martyr, and the great church which is four churches; in another neighborhood which is on the bank of the river, namely Mar Ishaʿya and Mar Quryaqos and Mar Yoḥannan and St. George; and a little church newly built named Mar Yawsep in the neighborhood of the citadel; and another little church called Mar Petion in a different neighborhood.
“And there are also monasteries and convents outside of the city: the monastery of St. Michael which is on the bank of the river beside the city; and the monastery of Mar Giwargis outside of the city on another side facing the monastery of St. Michael, and the waters of the river are between them, and in it there are monks and an abbot; and also the monastery of Mar Eliya on the south side of the city; and the monastery of Mar Gabriel which overlooks the river, and beside it is the great church of Mary, the Mother of God.
“And there are also churches of the Syrian Orthodox: the church of St. Thomas the Apostle; and the church of Mar Aḥudemmeh, both in the neighborhood; and the large new church in the neighborhood of the citadel beside the ancient church, which is the church of Mary, the Mother of God; and another church near the wall of the city on the west, which is also known as the church of Mary the Great, the Mother of God; and within it is another little church by itself, the church of Mar Giwargis, in which are relics of the saint.
“And the Syrian Catholics also have one church of Mary, the Mother of God, newly built beside the old church in the neighborhood of the citadel; and another church by the name of St. Thomas beside the church of St. Thomas of the Jacobite Syrians.
“And in Mosul there are also mosques and congregational mosques of the Muslims. Outside of the city is a nearby village on the east with the name Nabi Yunus. In it there is a congregational mosque for the prophet Jonah. And also within the city is the mosque of the prophet Daniel, and there is a large mosque of Nabi Jirjis (the prophet George)…”
“…And there is [a mosque] of John of Dailam which [the Muslims] call Abū ʾl-Ḥasan, the wonder-worker. And outside of the city there is a mosque on the left bank which they call Nabi Seth – it is big [and now destroyed]. And within the city is Mar Zena, which they call the al-Khilal mosque. And there is one of John the Baptist on the river, which they call Yaḥyā Abū al-Qāsim [also destroyed by ISIS]. And also on the river lower down is the Red Mosque, which they call al-Khidr. And there are many other mosques in every neighborhood, and in every square there are two or three little ones. There are many without number.
“And we will mention the ones whose names we know…” [The scribe goes on to list 48 mosques in the rest of the note, 3 of which he has already named, in almost all cases giving some indication of the mosque’s location, by neighborhood or relative to another mosque or the citadel]
“…Nabī Imām Ḥamza outside of the wall on the west; Sultan Lu’lu’ built it [he was the ruler of Mosul in the 13th C when he capitulated to the Mongol invaders]. Imām ʿAwn al-Dīn within the city, in the neighborhood named after it; Sultan Lu’lu’ built it…”
“…Imām Yaḥyā, between Bāsh Ṭābiyya and Sultan Luʾluʾ Palace. Imam Zayd, in the neighborhood of the New Gate…”
“…Lady Fatima, in the al-Khatuniyya neighborhood. Lady Kulthum, in the same al-Khatuniyya neighborhood. Lady Nafisa, in the neighborhood of the Palace (Saray) Gate…”
[At this point the scribe switches from Syriac to Garshuni, that is Arabic written in Syriac letters. All of the remaining mosque names begin with “Shaykh,” rather than the “Nabi,” “Imam,” or “Lady” like the preceding ones.]
“…Shaykh Qaḍīb al-Bān al-Mawṣillī, north of Mosul at the Egg Gate…” [there must be some error, since the “Egg Gate” (Bāb al-Bayḍ) is depicted in Hugh Kennedy’s Historical Atlas of Islam as on the south of the city.]
“…A congregational mosque in the neighborhood of the Iraq Gate, which was the church of St. Theodore. And it happened when the Muslims renovated it that a marble box appeared in it, and there was an inscription on it: ‘This is the bones of the holy Mar Theodore.’ And the Muslims went to the Syrians and said to them, ‘Come take your father.’ And the bishop and the priests went and took the bones of the saint and placed them in the ancient church of the holy Mar Thomas the apostle, within the sanctuary with the ecclesiastical books [which] they took with it.”