Translated by: Aziz Emmanuel
It is an inhabited town 30 kms to
the north of Mosul and 7 kms from the Town of Batanaya. According to Badger,
the town’s population used to be 110 families in 1852. Father Martin, however,
estimates the number at 1800 people in 1867.
Tellesqef is regarded
as one of the big Christian towns in Iraq following Qaraqush (Baghdede),
Bartilla, and Elqush. The town has a special reputation in making pottery and
water vats. It used to be the main source for supplying Mosul and its villages
with such vats. The industry, however, declined as the inhabitants took on
other modern professions in addition to farming.
Tellesqef is an Aramic compound
name made up of “Tella” which means mound and “Sqeepa” meaning standing in
reference to its nearby monumental Tell which probably contains
findings that date back to the time of the Assyrian Empire.
Claudius James Ridge reported in
1820 that the people of Tellesqef carried out diggings in the Tell and found a
tomb containing a stone with an inscription that bore the name of “Tellesqef”.
On digging further down, they came across stones and reached a grave containgn
glass wares and lamps. Rigdge was able to get hold of two such glass containers
which he said were similar to the ones discovered in Cteisphone and Babylon.
The scholar Gewargis Awwad
mentions other excavations conducted in 1934 resulting in the discovery of the
rmains of monumental buildings. In the middle of the 19th century, The
French Victor Place carried out diggings in Tellesqef, but failed to find any
In his “Dictionary of Countries”.
Vol.1 P. 863, the Arab treveller Yaqut al-Hamawi (died in 1229) said,
“Tellesqef as one word means the Tell of Christians, a big village that belongs
to Mosul to the east of Tigris”.
The city witnessed numerous
catastrophies the most prominent of which was the Mongols massacre of the town
in 1236. There is an eloquent description of the massacres carried out in
Karmles, Erbi, Tellesqef, and the Monastery of Beth Qopha in a poem written in
the Chaldean dialect by Gewargis Warda. They killed thousands of people, set,
fields, houses, worship places to fire destroying all the culture that existed.
They caused the displacement of thousands fo people. No one was spared other
than those who made it to the far away mountais. Neither was the church of Mar
ya’aqub al-Muqata’a (dismembered [Translator]) which was razed to the ground.
Tellesqef also came under the
attack of Baryaq’s Mongol army in 1508 at the same time when Telqef, Elqush,
and the Monastery of Rabban Hormez were attacked. It was also targeted by the
army of the Persian Nadir Shah during his siege of the city of Mosul in 1743
during which the town was destroyed and many of its inhabitants killed as was
the case with Karmles, Bartilla, Telkef and many other areas to the east of
Churches and Shrines
There are two churches in
Tellesqef, the first is the church of Mar Yaq’aqub al-Mugata’a , the oldest
church in the town. There is no accurate information as to when it was founded.
What is certain is that it used to be there before the 13th century during
the Mongol massacre in 1236. The church has been mentioned in a Chaldean
manuscript among the collection of Claudius James Ridge which dates back to
1499. The second church is the church of Mar Gewargis which was demolished in
1955 and replaced by a new church according to the Latin order.
“ I visited these churches in
1943, and the church Mar Gewargis which has an ancient design, had three
temples, but had no ancient inscriptions”, said the French orientalist Jhon
In the north of the town are the
ruins of a small building which was consecrated to Mar Sahdootha. On the way to
Elqush is the shrine of Mart Shmoony the Macabine. The Berlin Manuscript
Bibiography edited by the orientalist Saho, states that there were churches and
temples dedicated to Mar Ya’aqub, Mar Gewargis, Apnimaran, Sahdoona and Shmooni
with her children.
The most important
arachaeological sites are in the eastern part of the town where the site of the
Monastery of Apnimaran lies – the Tell area – now the cemetery. In the middle
of the cemetery is an old water well indicating that the Tell used to be an
inhabited area before it was taken up by the inhabitants as a cemetery. The
inhabitants have found a wall towards the north which seems to have been part
of the church building. The existence of the cemetery has not made it possible
to carry out any archaelolgical excavations to see the real fact about the
monastery and the town together. The the second day of every Easter is observed
as memorial day of the monastery which is celebrated by the people of Tellesqef
The monastery has been mentioned
in The Se’ert History by an anonymous writer which was edited by martyr
Bishop Adday Sher within the Eastern Patrology:” the remains of a
monastery, ascribed to Aprinmaran the superior of the Moastery of Za’faran, lie
near Tell Zqipa- a village that lies 5 hours to the north east of Mosul”.
Most references point out that it
was Apnimaran the Great, from Beth Garmai – present day Kirkuk- who
founded the Za’afaran Monastery. There is however, no accurate information
whether it was Apnimaran the Great who founded an other monastery in Tellesqef
or it was an other monk with the same name; for if the person meant were
Apnimaran the Great, then the date of the foundation of the monastery is the 7th century.
It is more probable that the monastery was founded by Rabban Apnimaran who
lived in the first half of the 10th centure and whose name was mentioned
in the biography of Yousif Bosnaya (died September 979 AD) as pointed out by
the researcher Shabo who says:” Rabban Apnimaran used to have a cell in the
heights of Gedron which, based on the biography, were near Elaush and Rabban
Hormez Monastery…”. But the Gedron Heights are non other than the height called
Knud that lie between Elqush and Tellesqef. But Edward Sakho, however, is of a
different opinion saying that an archaeological tablet was found in the church
of Tellesqef indicating that the monastery was built or rebuilt in 1403 at the
expense of the people of Telkef. The tablet, however, has disappeared and does
not exist any more.
The Manuscripts of Telleskef
There is a collection of
manuscripts that were classified by Fr Butrus Haddad comprising 26 Chaldean
manuscripts. The Book of Hudhra (The Book of Liturgical Prayer [Translator]),
is the oldest of these manuscripts dating back to 1698. Another manuscript is
found in the book case of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Kirkuk, entitled (Shappir
Dobara – The Good Conduct- writeen by Deacon Ibrahim Bin Bad’aa al-
Tellesqufi in 1585.
An other manuscript was written
by Fr. Ibrahim Bin Marisan al – Tellesqufi entitled ( Mar Youhanna al-
Tellesqufi). Father Ibrahim Bin Marbena has three manuscripts in the book -
case of Al-Sayida Monastery that date back to 1793, 1794, 1796 respectively. In
the Berlin book-case are three Chaldean manuscripts which were written in
Tellesqef in the nineteen century ( Sako Catalogue- Berlin 1899, p. 215, 216,
352). There is also a book “Usul-al-I’atiraf “ (Principles of Confession) ,
which is written by Odisho Bin Hadaya from the town of Batnaya, on a special
request from Fr. ASkar Bin Odisho al Tellesqufi in 1702.
The Achievements of Mr. Sarkis
Aghajan in Tellesqef
of 55 houses for diplaced families in the town,
of an office and hall for the Church of Mar Gewargis,
of (4) service shops in the compound,
a box-like archway and pavement of the street leading to Tellesqef High School
a room for the power supply generator for the compound with its annexes.
gricultural land for housing,
house for the Christian Affairs Committee in Tellesqef,
of (7) mini-buses for university student transportation,
tractors for the municipality of Tellesqef,
vehicle to serve the needs of the Christian Affairs Committee and
of 250 desks for primary school students,
43kv power suplly generator for the committee in Tellesqef,
200kv power supply generator to Noor residential complex, and
of a 150kv power supply generator to the church of Mar Gorgese.
Noor residential complex with a drinking water supply system,
Noor residential complex to the national power supply grid with all
of a 600m x 8m streets in the complex with concrete,
of a (550mx8m) street from the village to the complex,
of (3) power supply generators with their accessories,
of Tellesqef communication office with the main national power supply grid and
the installation of a new convertor,
of a communication grid of 2100- line capacity in the post and communication
office in Tellesqef along with the purchase of a power supply generator.
Habeeb, The Church of the East in the Plain of Nineveh, San Diego( 1992:
S. D. Tellesqef Throughout History. Hezel Journal, No. 3 (2007: 98-102).
Affairs Office/ Ankawa.