al-Mariyamiyeh Church (كنيسة المريمية), located in the center of the old city, is the seat of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate and one of the most important churches in Damascus (دمشق). There has been a church at this site dating back to the Byzantine period, at least as early as the fourth century and possibly earlier. The present-day structure is considerably more modern, however, dating mostly from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Muslim conquest of Damascus (دمشق) in 634 initially resulted in the closure of all churches in the city. Khalid Ibn al-Walid (خالد ابن الوليد) ordered al-Mariyamiyeh Church (كنيسة المريمية) returned to the Christian community in 706 as compensation for the Church of John the Baptist being converted into the Umayyad Mosque (الجامع الاموي). Some subsequent rulers of the city did not treat the Christian community with equal respect, however, and the church was destroyed several times throughout the Abbasid and Fatimid periods, and again during the Mongol invasions. In 1342 the Greek Orthodox patriarchate was transferred here from Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey).
Major sectarian conflict between the Druze and Christian communities of Lebanon in the 1850s spread to Syria, culminating in the 1860 attacks against the Christian community of Damascus (دمشق). Most of the Christian district of the old city, including al-Mariyamiyeh Church (كنيسة المريمية), was burned down and destroyed. The lives of many Christians were saved, however, by the intervention of Algerian resistance leader Abd al-Qadar Ibn Mohi al-Din (عبد القادر ابن محي الدين) and by the protection of their Muslim neighbors. al-Mariyamiyeh Church (كنيسة المريمية) was rebuilt three years after the 1860 attacks, and restored again in 1953. The current structure dates from these periods. While the building is fairly modern, it incorporates many traditional architectural styles including alternating horizontal bands of black and white stone. The spacious interior features arches supported on columns with Corinthian capitals, and there is a fine marble iconostasis dating from the eighteenth century. The hours of the church appear sporadic, but there is usually a caretaker to allow in visitors.
Getting There: al-Mariyamiyeh Church (كنيسة المريمية) is located near to the Roman arch on Straight Street (الشارع المستقيم) that once marked an important intersection near the center of the ancient city. It is approximately five hundred meters west of Bab Sharqi (باب شرقي) and an equal distance east of Khan Assad Basha (خان اسعد باشا) on the northern side of Straight Street (الشارع المستقيم).
Coordinates: 33°30’36.00″N / 36°18’42.00″E
Transliteration Variants: al-Mariyamiye Church, al-Mariyamiya Church, al-Mariamiyeh Church, al-Maryamiyeh Church, al-Mariamiye Church, al-Maryamiye Church, al-Mariamiya Church, al-Maryamiya Church
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