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Monastery of the Martyrs Saint Behnam and his Sister Sara (Order: Siriac Catholic Church – Monastery)

Mar Behnam Monastery




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monastery of the Martyrs Saint Behnam and his Sister Sara

Entrance of the monastery
Mar Behnam Monastery is located in Iraq

Mar Behnam Monastery
Location within Iraq


Monastery information
Order Syriac Catholic Church
Established 4th century
Dedicated to Mar Behnam, Mart Sara
Location near Beth Khdeda
Coordinates 36.137778°N 43.406389°E

Monastery of the Martyrs Saint Behnam and his Sister Sarah (Syriac: ܕܝܪܐ ܪܡܪܝ ܒܗܢܡ ܘܡܪܬ ܣܪܐ, Arabic: دير مار بهنام‎, Mar Behnam Monastery), is a Syriac Catholic monastery in northern Iraq close to the town of Beth Khdeda.


The monastery was built in the 4th century by an Assyrian king named Senchareb as a penance for killing his son Behnam and daughter Sarah after they converted to Christianity.[1]

The monastery, after its establishment continued its work and contributed greatly to the Christian world under the care of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Sculptures in the church show that renovations were done in 1164 and between 1250-1261. Records show that the monastery suffered greatly during the period from 1743 – 1790 which is due to attacks carried out by Nader Shah against the Christians in the region.[2]

The monks of the monastery established contact with Rome in the 18th century, which led to the gradual conversion of inhabitants of Beth Khdeda to the Syriac Catholic Church.[3]

In 1790 the monastery was taken over by the Catholic Church and was managed for 8 years until the Syriac Orthodox church took it back. For some unknown reason, the monks abandoned the monastery in 1819. The monastery changed hands again to the Syriac Catholic Church in 1839, which has cared for it to present time.

The monastery belonged to the Church of the East for at least 10 centuries, which is attested to by rare Turkic inscriptions from the 13th century left by Mongol pilgrims. Before turning to the hand of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the whole region converted to Monophysitism and the monastery became the residence as well as the resting place of a number of Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs.[3]

The monastery was renovated in 1986, and is visited by thousands of Christians and Muslims yearly.[1] During the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive jihadist troops of ISIL took control of the monastery.[4]





The Pillar-Saints, or stylites, were Christian ascetics who preached while living atop pillars—sometimes for decades at a time. One of the first such stylites, if not the first, was Simeon the Elder of Syria. Expelled from a monastery for excessive austerity, he stood on a column for more than 35 years until his death in 459. He was revered throughout the Christian world and attracted a following. What did Saint Alypius do when he could no longer stand on the pillar he had occupied for 53 years? More… Discuss