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Monastery of Saint Behnam (Mosul)

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Six miles to the north-east of Nimrood is the old Syrian convent of Mar Behnâm. ... This convent has become the property of the Papal Syrians. ... This is a large square edifice, with a low entrance, leading into an open court separated by a double row of apartments intended for the accommodation of the resident monks. A spacious portico extends along the entire front of the church, which is situated on the right of the court, and measures about 50 ft. by 60 ft. Badger 1852, p 94-95

Two noble entrances, constructed chiefly of marble, and ornamented with Estrangheli, or ancient Syriac, inscriptions, lead into the church. The nave is divided into two unequal portions by a double arch resting on a single isolated pilaster, opposite to which is a circular column supporting a kind of canopy, raised over the entrance into the chapel, on the right of the principal sacrarium. The high altar is situated in a semicircular recess beneath a beautifully carved dome, and a vaulted roof of still more exquisite workmanship covers the apartment which occupies the south-western wing. ... On the eastern face of the large pilaster is a full-length bas-relief portrait of Sarah, the sister of Mar Behnâm, and on the altar-screen opposite, there is a similar representation of the saint himself mounted on a horse, both of which are much defaced. Badger 1852, p 94-95

To the left of the sacrarium is the Best Kaddeeshé ... where several Syrian Bishops are buried, and over whose graves are elaborate inscriptions cut on marble slabs and fixed into the wall. Badger 1852, p 94-95

Twenty yards distant from the convent is the baptistery: this is a plain building, of an oblong form, with a semicircular recess at the eastern end, in which the font is placed. The font is 3 ft. in diameter, and stands about 4 ft. above the ground. A passage through the floor in front of the recess leads into a subterranean chapel containing eight small recesses, evidently intended for tombs, and covered with a neat dome. ... The chapel is dedicated to the "Forty Martyrs," who suffered martyrdom with Mar Behnâm. .... Among the monumental records, we noticed one in large Armenian characters. A sarcophagus of black marble is pointed out as the burial-place of Mar Behnâm, but the epitaph, which appears to have stood in the wall behind him, has been removed. In an adjoining niche, we found a Syriac inscription, of which the following is a translation:

Like the censer in the sanctuary,

So is Mar Behnâm in his convent;

And what rain and dew are to the earth,

So are his prayers to our souls.

Badger 1852, p 95

When we first visited it in 1844, it was only tenanted by a few Coords, and the whole building was rapidly falling into decay; since then, however, it has been repaired, and service is now daily performed in the church by a resident priest. Badger 1852, p 95

The convent of Mar Behnâm is highly venerated by the Mussulmans under the title of Khudhr Elias, or Elijah the Seer. What relation can ever have existed between the martyr and the prophet it is not easy to divine; the Jacobites solve the difficulty by saying that the latter name was given to it in order to secure the respect of the Mohammedans; and they further ad, that this stratagem has often saved the convent the other monasteries around them have been plundered and deserted. Badger 1852, p 96

Studies

Badger 1852Badger, George Percy. 1852. The Nestorians and their Rituals. Google Books