City in the north of Iraq, on the west bank of the Tigris opposite the ruins of ancient Nineveh. Its Arabic name al-Mawṣil means ‘the link’, possibly on account of its strategic location on a trade route linking southern Iraq with Syria and Anatolia. Before the Arab era, the site of Mosul was occupied by a modest fortress called in Syriac sources ḥesnā ʿebrāyā ‘Across-the-Fortress’, near which a ‘Ninevite’ monk named Ishoʿyahb bar Qusri built a monastery at the end of the 6th cent. His name still survives in the form Eshaʿya, lit. ‘Isaiah’, though the modern church that bears this name is from a later period. Other names were given to this pre-Islamic settlement, including Nu-Ardashir, Bu-Ardashir, or simply Ardashir. In 637 the Arab armies conquered Mosul which became part of the province of al-Jazīra, the capital of which was Ḥarran. At the time of the Arab conquest, the city was inhabited by a large E.-Syr. community and by a smaller Syr. Orth. one under the influence of Dayro d-Mor Matay. The E.-Syr. diocese of Nineveh, which may well have been situated in the ruins of the ancient Assyrian palace area, moved to Mosul soon after its conquest; its first bp. was none other than Ishoʿyahb III of Adiabene who became patr. in 649. During the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, Mosul was of prime importance, being a trade, commercial, and agricultural center, and the city prospered in people and buildings. From 1127 to 1233, the city was ruled by the Atabeg Dynasty founded by ʿImād-al-dīn Zangī, and the time of the governor and then Sultan of Mosul Badr al-dīn Luʾluʾ (1199–1259) was a golden age of art and architecture, reflected in both Islamic and Christian religious buildings. The city was sacked by the Mongols in 1258, and in 1534 it became part of the Ottoman empire. In 1743 the Persian Nadir-Shah Tahmasp invaded northern Mesopotamia as a consequence of tense relations between Persia and the Ottomans and besieged Mosul for nine consecutive days. The heroic resistance of the population, both Muslim and Christian, defeated the enemy, and as a consequence, these were allowed to rebuild their churches and mosques in Mosul and in the surrounding villages. The brilliant art and architecture reflected in dozens of these buildings has survived to this day and is typical of this era called Jalīlī, after the name of its brave governor Husayn Beg al-Jalīlī. During the 19th and early 20th cent., the Christians of Mosul greatly contributed to the revival of the Arab culture undermined for centuries by the Ottomans, creating the first newspaper and theater, and printing popular books through which they promoted the Arabic language and literature. After the invasion of Iraq by the Allied forces in 2003, the Christians of Mosul became targets of assassination, kidnapping, and extortion, and the city’s Chald. bp., two of its priests, and many of its deacons and lay people fell victim to the violence.
- J.-M. Fiey, Mossoul chrétienne (Recherches publiées sous la direction de l’Institut de Lettres orientales de Beyrouth, t. XII; 1959).
- J.-M. Mérigoux, Les chrétiens de Mossoul et leurs églises pendant la période ottomane de 1516 à 1815 (1983).
- Faraj Raḥḥo, Īšūʿyāb bar Qūsrī wa-kanāʾisuhu (Mosul, 1971).