Church of Umm al-Zinar
Umm al-Zinar Church is one of the oldest churches in the world. Its official name is the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, Umm al-Zinar. It is located in the Homs Governorate in the Hamidiyah region in Syria. It is an archaeological historical church dating back to the first century. It was called by this name because the girdle of the Virgin Mary’s dress was preserved in it. In the middle of the twentieth century, the church was the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East. After the patriarchal seat was moved to Damascus, the capital, it became the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Homs and Hama.
The church is famous for its unique architectural style. Black basalt stone was used in the construction, such as the nearby Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque, as well as the stone arches. Under the current church, there is a church that is considered one of the oldest churches in the world, and near it there is a water spring that reaches a depth of 20 meters. A special shrine is attached to the church in which the girdle of the Virgin is displayed, and on August 15 of each year, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, it is removed from the church and paraded in the adjacent streets. Several restorations were carried out in the church, the largest of which was in the late nineteenth century, and then in 1953 during the days of Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum.
The church is now the seat of the Syriac Archdiocese and an important pilgrimage center for many faithful visitors. Recently, a cooperation took place between the Archdiocese and the Syrian Ministry of Tourism to conduct an archaeological study, where it was agreed to build retaining walls and complete the excavation and restoration work, and the project is still under implementation. The most important historical reference that spoke about the history of the church is a publication entitled “The Scattered Pearl” by Patriarch Ephraim Barsoum.
The history of the construction of the Initiation Church dates back to the year 59, and it was like an underground vault in which worship takes place in secret for fear of the pagan Roman rule, by Elijah, one of the seventy disciples of Christ; After Homs became the seat of a diocese, the church was the episcopal seat of the diocese, and its first bishop, Silvanus, resided there for nearly four decades until his death in 312. After the issuance of Milan in 313, the Christians of Homs began constructing a large church over the old church dug underground. The church is made of wood, but we do not have enough information about its length and width, and to it was transferred the holy girdle, which was preserved in a metal container and within a basalt jar. As for the bell column, it was built in the sixth or seventh century.
According to Christian traditions, the sash belonged to St. Thomas, who transported it to India and stayed there for four centuries, when he was transferred to Edessa with the remains of St. Thomas, and from there to Homs in the year 476, when a monk named Father Daoud al-Turabdini came to the church with him and kept the sash in The Church The church is named after the sash.
the modern history:
In 1852, Archbishop Julius Boutros renovated the church, filling in the wooden ceiling and some walls. They built the current church, which is based on sixteen huge columns, eight of which are in the middle of the church and the rest are within its walls, and in the middle of it they erected an ornate semi-cylindrical dome. As for the girdle, it was placed within a basalt jar in the middle of the altar, and they placed a stone on top of it and engraved on it in cursive script the date of the renewal of the church and the names of the donors, and they mentioned that the church dates back to the year 59. In 1901 it was added to the current bell church, and in 1910, by order of the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad V, the church was renewed In 1953, during the pontificate of Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum, the girdle was removed from the center of the altar, and displayed in a small shrine adjacent to the church; In 1954, Patriarch Ephrem I Barsoum expanded the church to the west and added a wing to it.
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