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2014-01-22 17:17:48 Views : 6073 |

Tikrit, the capital of Christianity during the Roman Times


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Salahaddin - Iraq Press

Translated by: Aziz Emmanuel Zebari

The city of Tikrit in the Iraqi province of Salahaddin is regarded as one of the world's most ancient cities. Christianity was brought to the city by the Nestorians at an early time by the Nestorian missionaries.  

The Romans, who embraced Christianity, tried to make use of its location as a  deterrent remote outpost of the Roman Empire against the Persians. They built 12 churches in the city and so it was called the capital of the Christian East.

The Persian support of the Nestorians against the Jacobite Faith which sympathized with the Romans, failed and the city became headquarter of Mafrianate .

The Islamic invasion put an end to the Roman control over the city in 637 AD.

Tikrit, however, remained one of the important Christian centres until 1163, when this status was assumed by the city of Mosul where the Jacobite Mafrianate See was moved.

That period was marked by the building of many churches and monasteries in Tikrit. The most prominent of those churches was Al- Kaneesa Al-Khadhra'a ( The Green Church). The ruins of the monasteries remained standing in various locations of the city until late twentieth century.

" During the Roman period, Tikrit witnessed the construction of 12 churches, among which four were the most famous in the history of the city. The first was in the southern edge of the castle to the right of the bridge of Tikrit today. The second was built beneath the Mutawarah School for girls which was removed at an earlier time" said Ibrahim Al- Nasiri, a historian who said that the two churches were built before the Islamic invasion of Tikrit and that 20 years separated between the building of the two churches.

He went on to say that the third church was called Selkhus Baccus located in the present day Bait Al- Naqeeb. It was also called The Chruch of Martyrs  Selkus and Baccus referring to the names of two saints who were executed by the Persian king who called for the worship of fire while they called for the worship of God.

The historian added that the third, the green church, was the largest and most beautiful in Tikrit. It was built in an agricultural area and used to be like a big cathedral that drew great attention", the historian added. 

" Is original location is beneath the grave of the Ottoman Pasha  Mawlood Mukhlis who used to own vast areas of the city unlike what people nowadays believe that it is located in the premises of the presidential palaces" , he added.

Al - Nasiri added that recent digging work to build sewer pipes in Pasha Street have proved the existence of a big hall that belongs to the original church extending from the house of Shakir Alwais up to the Grave of Pasha.

He explained that the place now called the Green Church in the premises of the presidential palaces is actually the location of the above-mentioned Selkus Baccus church and that service was simultaneously held in all the ancient churches of Tikrit.

"The green church is now in ruins. It used to be the biggest church in Tikrit the capital of the East for Christianity and Jacobites. It served, like today's Vatican, as the See of the Church of the East and the headquarters of the Orthodox church. It was a government and spiritual centre and continued to serve as the capital of Eastern Christianity until the invasion of Tamerlane", Al, Nasiry added.  

He went on to say that Tamerlane's army of 72,000 fighters invaded and destroyed the city. However, Christians remained in the city until the time of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hameed 1st . 

"The names given to Tikrit are: the Babylonian Tikrita, or  Tikritian. The geographer Ptolemy gave the name Berta while Emanus, a scholar, gave it the name of Ferta. And finally there is the Aramaic name Tigarut which was later changed to Tigrit by the Syriacs meaning a trade place. This is the nearest of all the names of the city during the stable conditions of the city during pre-Islamic invasion. Almost all these names refer to two meanings:  a fortified castle and trade centre" he concluded.



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