St. Mary Church of Urmia
Only second to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, it is still an important Assyrian church in Iran.
There are many stories behind this ancient church. Many Christian and Assyrian historians believe that the church had been a Zoroastrian fire temple before the birth of Christ. It is about the three magi or kings or wise men visiting St. Mary and baby Jesus to present gifts. So legends has it they were in this fire temple when they saw the shooting star in the sky towards Jerusalem. And they took it as a sign of the birth of the awaited Messiah. And they turned the fire temple into a church.
Apart from legends and stories, the original ancient building of the church dates back to Sassanid era (224-642) with architectural elements of Arsacids (247 BC- 224 AD) as well. So St. Mary church is considered as on of the oldest churches in the world and maybe the second oldest after the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem of the west bank.
St. Mary church of Urmia is different from many other churches in two major ways; the church is so simple without any decorations, covered with Persian carpets. St Mary church or as it is called also Naneh Maryam (Mother Mary) is constructed by irregular rock stones and short hallways and arches and a small chapel with some paintings and goblins. Unlike most churches there are no sits but only a bench for elders and visitors should take off their shoes before entering.
St. Mary church of Urmia has been renovated several times and it is not so uniform in style and it is known as the East Assyrian (Shargh-Ashur) Church too as it belongs to the Assyrian Christians. Iranian Assyrians are a religious and linguistic minority in Iran with a population around 50,000 and a member of the Parliament. Nowadays only a small part of the Assyrians still live in the city of Urmia and nearby regions.
Urmia is in the North West of Iran, in the West Azerbaijan province, 765 km from Tehran. Travelers often visit Urmia together with Tabriz during their journey. So it would be a good idea to visit also the Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran on the way from Urmia to Tabriz.
Then in Tabriz you can visit some attractions such as, Historical Bazaar Complex of Tabriz, Constitution House, Blue Mosque, Tabriz Museum and Arg-e Alishah all in one or two days staying in Tabriz.
You can visit St Mary Church of Urmia by one of our Iran Tours. Contact us via email@example.com or +98 21 88 17 08 99 for more information.