Bartella (Assyrian: ܒܪܬܠܐ,Arabic,برطلّة) is an Iraqi-Assyrian town located less than 13 miles east of Mosul, Iraq. The name "Bartella" is of Aramaic origin, but its meaning is not fully agreed on by the historians. While Joseph Ghanima and al-Jawaliqy believe its from "Bart Tilla" meaning "Daughter of Dew", the priest Putros Saba al-Bartelly believes it comes from "Beth Rattly" meaning "House of Weights".

Between the 7th and 12th centuries, the name "Bartella" is lost in the shadows of history. However, according to Potrus Qasha, in 1153, Ignatius Elia'azar (1143–1164), the maphrian of Ashur, made Bartella his home and see, and the town became the center of Christianity in Athur (Ashur). In Assyria (northern Iraq), the maphrian was the head of church, and reported to the Patriarch in Antioch. In 1859 (or 1860), the Syriac Orthodox Church under Patriarch Yacoub II officially abolished the position of maphrian (Patriarch Yacoub III reinstated the position of maphrian in India in 1964). When Ignatius Elia'azar made Bartella his home and see, dissatisfaction erupted in the community since Mar Mattai Monastery has been the traditional see of the Orthodox maphrian. A compromise was finally reached and he returned to Mar Mattai. However, it was agreed that he would make it a tradition to visit Bartella to emphasize its importance. Other maphrians who made their see in Bartella were Dionysius Saliba II (1222–1231), Gregorius Barsuma (1288–1308), Gregorius Mattai I (1317–1345), Gregorius bar Qeenaya (d. 1361), Athanasius Abraham II (1365–1379), and Cyril Joseph III (1458–1470).

As was the case with other Assyrian villages, Bartella was of the Church of the East faith. However, in 610, the people of Bartella accepted monophysitism according to Bishop Marotha of Tikrit, who, in 639, was ordained Maphrian of the East. In 1153, Maphrian Ignatius La'azer, Maphrian of Assur, chose Bartilla as his see. Bartilla was also chosen as the see for Maphrian Dionysius Saliba II in 1223; in 1231 this Maphrian was killed in a battle in the area of Tur Abdin.

Bartella gained fame again in 1284 when Maphrian Gregoris bin al-Ebry built the Yohanna bin Najara Monastery. Bartella was the home for the maphrians, Gregarious Barsoma who died in it in 1308, and was buried in Mar Mattai Monastery, and Maphrian Gregarious Matti I who died in 1345, and Maphrian Gregarious bin Qenaya who was ordained through the support of the Princes of Karamles, Matti and Sultan Shah, also with the support of Mar Denha II, Patriarch of the Church of the East. Unfortunately, Maphrian Gregarious bin Qenaya was forced to flee Bartella to Tikrit, and then to Baghdad were he was killed in 1361.

Bartella was also the home of Maphrian Athanasius Abraham II who died in 1379, and Maphrian Qorlos Joseph III, known as Ibn Nissan, who stayed only for a short time in Bartilla and left it to Hamas where he died in 1470. He was the last Maphrian who chose Bartilla as their home.

Disasters in Bartella

Bartella, like other Assyrian towns and villages throughout Assyria (today North of Iraq), faced attacks, plunder, and massacres throughout its long history. It was destroyed at least three times by Kurds and Persians.

In 1171, the Kurds attacked Bartella and it was in this same year that they attacked Mar Mattai Monastery. The monks realized that the Kurds were going to attack again. Therefore, the monks agreed to sign a peace treaty with the Kurds to avoid further blood spell and paid the Kurds 30 golden Dinars. Despite the treaty, the Kurds gathered a bigger army of 1,500 and attacked the monastery, caused a crack in its wall, entered and killed 15 monks, while the others escaped.

In 1201, a confrontation took place between the Christians and the Moslem cleric in the town. The town's people complained to the mayor, who punished the Moslem cleric by beating. The cleric went to Mosul and on the following Friday, he gathered a huge crowd in the main big mosque and agitated them. The crowd soon marched toward Bartella to destroy it. However, when they reached the town, its gates were closed and could not enter. They returned angry and on their way, they passed by the church of the Tikritis (Mar Zena Church). They broke the doors, entered and plundered and spoiled everything they found inside and took all valuables in the church. Today, Mar Zena Church, situated in the al-Najjareen area near Bab al-Jisir al-Qadeem (the old bridge gate), has been converted to the al-Khallal mosque.

In 1261 and 1369, Kurds attacked Mar Mattai Monastery.

In 1738, the Persian king sent his army under Nargis Khan to Assyria where he destroyed many villages in Nineveh plain.

In 1743, Persian Nadir Shah destroyed additional villages after besieging and entering Kirkuk and Arbil. He attacked Bartella, killed many men and took many young men, girls and women away.

In 1756, 1757, and 1758 a great famine swept Bartella and many traveled to Kirkuk and other Persian towns to purchase new grain, where they faced plunder and robbing at the hands of Kurds.

In 1789, Bartella was plundered again by Jolu Beg bin Bdagh, the Emir of Shikhan, during his war with the Arab Emir Mohammad bin Hasan al-Taa'i.


Bartella's population is around 10,000, with the majority being Christians. One-third of the population is Catholic and the rest is Orthodox. Bartella was Christianized in the second century. With the emergence of the christological controversies, the people and their church became under the Church of the East (Nestorian) dominion; however, it switched to the Syriac Orthodox Church (mistakenly and loosely known as Jacobite) around A.D. 610.

Churches of Bartilla

Bartella and its vicinity has six churches, two partially demolished, one abandoned, one new, and two very old:

Mar Aho Dama Church

This church was in existence in 1153 when was expanded by Maphrian Ignatius II La'azer. It was in use till 1386. Excavation in its ruins found the remains of three bishops which were moved to Mart Shmony Church.

Mart Shmony Church

It's unknown when this church was built first, however, it was reinvigorated for the first time in 1807. It was rebuilt again completely in 1869. It was reinvigorated again in 1971.

Mar Gewargis Church

There exist two churches with this name. The first is in ruins and not used and its believed to be a monastery for St. Jerjis who built it around 1701. The second church was completed in 1939.

Church of the Virgin

This church was built in 1890 at the time of Qorlos Elias al-Mosuli who died in 1911. However, an inscription dating 16th century mentions the name of the Church of the Virgin which contradicts the date of 1890 and assumes that this church was standing at that time.

Al-Sayida Church

The complete demolition of Al-Sayida Church came in 1934 as its bricks were used to build the new Mar Giwargis Church.

Ber Nagara Monastery

This monastery is named after Yohanan bin Nagara meaning "Yohanan of the Carpenters" since his all his family was working as carpenters. It's believed that he used to worship pagans, and after converting to Christianity he was killed by his father and was buried in the village of Ba Agre. When this village was destroyed in 1282, his grave which was visited heavily by the locals was destroyed with it. That forced Maphrian Gregarious bin al-Ebry to build a temple for the martyr Yohanan in Bartilla and was completed in 1285. On the 23, November, 1285, the remains of St. Yohanan, monks from Syria, and the 40 martyrs killed by the Persians were moved and reburied in this temple. Unfortunately, this monastery was destroyed in 1653 and again the remains were moved to St. Shmony church. Currently, all what exist of this monastery is a small room built recently as a reminder to its existence.

Latest Events

The Assyrians of Bartella have begun an impressive project to build a massive cultural and religious center in the town. With the removal of the Ba'ath regime and the gradual disappearance of traces of Arabization, the cultural center may help future generations learn more about their history.

On June 25, 2006, a series of car bombs by Iraqi insurgents at a petrol station and a SCIRI headquarters rocked the town, injuring many.


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