Remembering Mar Qardagh

Joel Thomas Walker

in The Legend of Mar Qardagh

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780520245785
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520932197 | DOI:
Remembering Mar Qardagh

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This chapter examines the origins and evolution of Mar Qardagh's principal cult site, at a village named Melqi on the outskirts of Arbela. Neo-Assyrian cuneiform records indicate that the festival temple of the goddess Ishtar of Arbela once occupied this cult site. Unfortunately, there is not a shred of literary documentation for the cult site between ca. 600 b.c.e. and ca. 600 c.e, so the Zoroastrian phase of occupation described by the Qardagh legend remains unsubstantiated. According to the History of Mar Qardagh, Qardagh, while marzbān of northern Iraq, constructed a fortress on top of the “tell” at Melqi, and a Zoroastrian fire temple at its base. The saint's hagiographer also details, in his epilogue, the eventual construction of an entire ecclesiastical complex at Melqi. Later East-Syrian writers of the ninth to twelfth century confirm the longevity of this shrine, which came to be known as the “monastery” (dayrā) or “place” (baytā) of Mar Qardagh. Two writers, independently of one another, attest to the monastery's use by the metropolitan bishops of Arbela. The final demise of the shrine appears to have coincided with the upsurge of anti-Christian violence in the Arbela district during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

Keywords: Mar Qardagh; cult site; Melqi; Arbela; monastery; shrine

Chapter.  18713 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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