Matran family of Shamizdin

Matran family of Shamizdin

Since... 1663

Matran is an Assyrian word for Metropolitan or Archbishop. The 'Metropolitans of Shamizdin' based at the Mar Ishu Monastery in the area of Nochiya in south east Turkey, have always been known by their hereditary title of Mar Khnanishu. History records that there were at least 12 Metropolitans of Shamizdin since 1580 but the first two were not related to the Gida line and were actually loyal to the Pope.



The Matran family jointly controlled the ‘Assyrian Church of the East’ for 314 years.[citation needed]

Few realize that between 1553–1661 for a period of 108 years, this branch of today's ‘Assyrian Church of the East’ became known as ‘The Chaldean Catholic Church’ and was loyal to the Pope. Some historians label this era as the ‘Jilu period’, as three of the last five Catholic Patriarchs were from the Jilu Tribe.

In 1661, the bishops of this ‘Chaldean Church’ revolted against union with Rome and deposed Mar Yualla Shimun XII of Jilu. The following year in 1662, a new Patriarch was chosen Mar Dinkha Shimun XIII, who was a bishop and Patriarch in waiting (Nadtir Kursi) of the old Nestorian Church of Alqosh (the rival church) and a member of the Patriarchal and Dynastical ‘Aboona family’. Mar Dinkha was the first in the line of Quchanis Patriarchs, known as the Mar Shimuns.

Of course, the Dynastical Aboona family were dictatorial to the extreme, they insisted that both Patriarchs of the two Churches and the Metropolitans, Bishops, Monks, Archdeacons and Priests all be chosen from the ‘Aboona family’. So, a year after his own consecration, Mar Shimun XIII went about consecrating his first cousin Mar Sargis Khnanishu I as 'Metropolitan of Rustaqa for Shamizdin' in 1663, this made him the second most powerful man in the church and the Patriarch's right hand man. They re-introduced hereditary succession within the Church hierarchy and jointly controlled Assyrian Church affairs for a period of 312 years.

This period often referred to as the ‘Qudshanis era' and is most famous for two things namely; restoring independence from Rome and re-labeling the ‘Chaldean’ identity to the ‘Assyrian’ as it is known today. Their joint destiny came to an end when both distant cousins died in the mid-1970s.

The Gida House of the Dynastic ‘Aboona Family

Mar Sargis Khnanishu I was from the Gida House of 'Daireh & Komaneh' (Iraq) and may have originated from the town of Hazza in Arbil.

Sometime in the mid 17th century, there were 3 brothers (who were priests) by the names of Sargis, Kharsu and Hanna, from the Gida Family who lived in the village of 'Daireh & Komaneh' possibly in the Mar Odishu monastery near Amedia (Iraq). Sargis may very well have been a monk.

Mar Dinkha Shimon XIII, better known as Dinkha Qatula (The Killer), killed his nephew Mar Khnanishu over rights of succession to the Patriarchal throne of the Nestorian church in Alqush and fled to Salamas to the Church based in Hakkari.

His cousins, the 3 brothers fled to the village of Alheh in the Nerwa region (Iraq) for a period of seven years. From Alheh, Hanna went to Jarma in Margawar (Iran) and Sargis & Kharsu went to the village of Sararu in Shamizdin.

In 1663, when the new Patriarch was looking to consecrate a Metropolitan for his new Church, he summoned the 3 brothers to travel to his residence at Khosrawa in the district of Salamas to consecrate one of them as Archbishop of the Church of The East. The story goes that Hanna from Jarma although was a priest, did not feel qualified enough to enter the race. The other two brothers however, set out to the Patriarchal residency through snowy winter conditions.

As fortune would have it, only Sargis managed the tough journey to his cousin the Patriarch and was consequently consecrated Matran, while Kharsu failed to complete the tough journey. Apparently, Mar Shimun the Patriarch announced, “Since, the other 2 brothers could not make the hazardous journey, it must then be God who has chosen you Sargis, to be the Metropolitan of this new Church”, so he moved from the village of Sararu to the close-by monastery of Mar Ishu to take charge of the 'Rustaqa diocese'.

The seat of Metropolitan remained in the Gida House until 1977, with the last Matran being the Saint Mar Yosip Khnanishu X. Since obviously, Metropolitans don’t marry, the seat was passed down from uncle to nephew. The second Metropolitan of Shamizdin must have been Kharsu’s son and so on, until the 10th and last of the Gida House. No one is quite sure why they called them The Gidas, whether Gida was the father of Mar Sargis and so being the uncle of Mar Shimon, or indeed whether Gida was actually a village or the name of a church somewhere, the name issue remains unsolved.

Throughout history, the Metropolitans of this house have been known for performing miracles. There are numerous tales that abound concerning Mar Iskhaq and Mar Yosip and indeed other members of the family's astonishing gift of mystasim and healing. The Church of the East finally realized this in the 1980s and consecrated Mar Yosip Khnanishu as an official Saint of the Assyrian Church and introduced a special feast dedicated to him in their annual calendar.

Today, the Matran family are still revered and are always addressed by their tribe as ‘Jani’, a kurdish word meaning 'my life'. Currently they don’t have a Metropolitan bishop in the family, however Nenif Matran Hariri is most active in internal tribal affairs.

The Bishops of Shamizdin

There were two other bishops in Nochiya; Mar Dinkha of Tees and Mar Yukhanan of Dariyan.

It is often said, that both these Bishopric families stemmed from the Matran family. Sometimes when the Matran family had extra Nazarited (Nzereh) priests in the family, they would be made bishops for surrounding areas.

In any case, it would be inconceivable to think that any new bishops would be consecrated after 1663 for the Shamizdin area that were not from the Gida fold, the Matran family just would not accept them, because it would mean in turn that they were not related to the Mar Shimun family and that would simply be out of the question, they had to be somehow related to the famous Aboona Dynasty.

The last Mar Youkhanan died in Diyana in the 1970s, however Mar Dinkha IV of Tees went on to become the current Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. So, it seems the Gida family might still be controlling the Assyrian Church of the East. Finally, the Mar Yukhanan family maybe planning to re-introduce the bishopery by choosing a son to take his forefather’s place. Whether the Mar Dinkha IV family choose to continue their hereditary privilege is yet to be seen. While the Matran family have dedicated a newborn son to be ‘Guardian of the Chair’ (Nadtir Kursi) to the Mar Khnanishu XI throne, his name is Bawa the son of Nenif Matran Hariri who will lead the life of a Nazarite (Nzera), just like his father’s granduncle.

Relations with the Barzan Family

There has been several books published over the years concerning the origins of Mustafa Barzani’s family. Two well known authors in particular, Luqa Zodu and Fathil Al Barrak have both claimed in their books ‘The Secret and Undercover Story of the Kurds, Beirut 1974’ and ‘Mustafa Al Barzani, the Myth and the Truth, Baghdad 1989’ respectively, that not only were the Barzani family Christian but also Assyrian and indeed may be related to the Matran family of Shamizdin. However, both families remain tight lipped about the relationship.

Apparently, following the death of Mar Ishaya Khnanishu V at the turn of the 19th century, a raw evolved over the election of the next Metropolitan for the Shamizdin diocese. The priest Qasha Rehana who was Mar Ishaya's brother, did not choose his eldest son Tajdin (born around 1760) as was the custom, he did not see him fit for the grand office, so he choose one of his other younger brothers instead. Outraged, Tajdin fled the Mar Eshu monastery.

In rebellion, Tajdin went to the nearby town of Nehri, the capital of Shamizdin and undertook studies in the Naqshbandi Muslim religion at the famous 'Foundation School of the Naqshbandi Sect', run by the Sheikhs of Nehri. After graduating and receiving his scholarship, he was sent to the area of Barzan to set up a Naqshbandi subsidiary school. Tajdin was one of many graduates from the Foundation who were sent to different locations in Northern Iraq that lacked religious figureheads, in order to spread the new strand of Muslim faith, the Naqshbandi way.

Malla Tajdin as he became known was Mustafa Barzani's great, great grandfather, he actually had 11 brothers including Sebdin (which fittingly rhyms with Tajdin) whose great grand children are respected priests of the Assyrian Church of The East. Shappira, one of his other brothers is the great, great grand father of the Saint Mar Yosip Khnanishu X.

Interestingly, after living for a brief period in Barzan as Malla Tajdin, the locals suspected his background, so he was forced to change his name to Malla Mohammad (an obvious choice) to distance himself from the Matran family.

One story that is often retold by the older folk of Harir is that in the 1940s, whilst the Saint Mar Yosip Khnanishu X and his brother Shlimon were attending the funeral of Sheikh Saddiq Barzani in the village of Barzan, Mustafa Barzani’s brother Sheikh Ahmad produced an old Syriac manuscript which he was unable to decipher. Upon request, the Saint Mar Yosip translated the manuscript, which was found in the local church and confirmed the Barzani family relationship to the Aboona Dynasty. The Barzani Sheikhs are always referred to as Bet Aboona by the Assyrian community, especially those of the surrounding villages of Barzan, such as Bidyal and the Nochiya tribe in general.

Apparently, after this revelation Sheikh Ahmad took a much less conservative stance to his own Islamic believes and made drastic reforms to his religious ideology on things like lent and prayer. Some claim that this was the initiation of the Khorshidi religious sect, now so dominant in the Barzan area. The manuscript still exists, somewhere! Whether the above stories are true, no one really knows but one thing is certain, the two families for the past 100 years have gone out of their way to support each other politically, financially and militarily, Why?

The Aboona dynasty is probably the most under estimated family in the whole Middle East. They have been in charge of Christian religious and political matters in the Kurdistan Region since 1318, possible even from 780, as the Patriarch Timothy I may also have been from the Aboona family. Some claim in addition to Mustafa Barzani's family that indeed most of the Muslim Sheikhs and Aghas in Kurdistan are descendants of the Aboona family. Making them one of the oldest and most dominant families, still in charge of Northern Iraq and the church, to this very day.

List of Metropolitans from the Gida House

Mar Sargis Khnanishu I[1] 1630-1700 Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey Consecrated 1663
Mar ? Khnanishu II 1665-1735 Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey none
Mar Ishu Khnanishu III 1687-1757 Mart Shmuni Monastery, Charukhiya, Diyarbakır, Turkey Died returning from Jerusalem
Mar Dawid Khnanishu IV 1714-1784 Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey none
Mar Ishaya Khnanishu V 1741-1811 Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey none
Mar ? Khnanishu VI 1763-1833 Mar Yaqu Monastery, Darband, Targawar, Iran none
Mar ? Khnanishu VII 1790-1862 Mar Tooma Church, Balulan, Targawar, Iran none
Mar Yosip Khnanishu VIII 1820-1884 Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey Metropolitan for 22 Years
Mar Iskhaq Khnanishu IX 1848-1918 Special Shrine, Kerminshah, Iran Metropolitan for 34 Years
Saint Mar Yosip Khnanishu X 1893-1977 Mart Maryam Church, Naeriya, Baghdad, Iraq Metropolitan for 58 Years


  1. ^ Cousin of the Patriarch Mar Dinkha Shimun XIII.
  • Dates are approximate only.

See also

  • List of Nochiyayeh
  • List of Nochiyayeh settlements
  • Saint Mar Yousip Khnanisho X
  • Nochiya Tribe

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