Mossul, the seat of a Chaldean archdiocese, a Syrian diocese, and an Apostolic Mission. The origin of the town is unknown. It is not the Mosel of Ezechiel, xxvii, 19, which is but a mistranslation of Uzzal, a town in the north of Arabia. It is probable that there always has been on the right bank of the Tigris a small town named Mossul, which grew in importance as Nineveh on the left bank decayed and finally disappeared. In Arabic Mossul is called El Mosil, the junction. Perhaps the name was originally Motsal, a cotton or muslin thread. Near Mossul at the gates of Nineveh took place in 627 the great battle in which Heraclius finally broke the power of the Persians. Then the town passed into possession of the Arab caliphs, afterwards to the Hamdanids, the Beni Okall (991), the Beni Mervan (1102), and eventually to the Seljuk Turks. Melek Shah, known also as Djelal Eddin, built schools and academies there. His successors fought against the Franks of the First Crusade, and Kerboga was conquered June 28, 1098, with an army of 200,000 men, under the walls of Antioch. Five years later (1103) Baldwin, Count of Edessa, was defeated and led prisoner to Mossul. In December, 1144, the famous Zenki took possession of Edessa; his son Nour ed-Din continued his conquests, and built many fine edifices at Mossul. On his death in 1174, Saladin was driven from Mossul, but it soon after yielded to him. In the middle of the thirteenth century, when the Mongolian Houlagou took the town, the Sultan Loulou, of the Zenki family and famous for his generosity and justice, was living there. Subsequently Mossul was taken and sacked by Timur (Tamerlane), the Turkomans, the Shah of Persia Is-mail, and the Turkish Sultan Selim I (1516). Idris, the historiographer of this Sultan, was afterwards charged with the reorganization of the province. The Persians under Nadir Shah vainly attempted to recapture the town in 1733; but they were driven back, as tradition says, by the Blessed Virgin, and in consequence the Turks allowed the Chaldeans and Syrians to build in her honor two churches which are still standing. It was once a busy and prosperous town, trading in woollen goods and morocco leather, but during the nineteenth century, owing to lack of communications with the outside world and also to the opening of the Suez canal which changed the caravan route, it has decayed. At the present time it is the capital of a vilayet and has 70,000 inhabitants. Its girdle of wall more than six miles in circumference, has become too large for it. The town has sulphur springs and many very fine mosques and churches. Among its more famous citizens were Baha ed-Din, Ibn el-Athir, and Ibn Khallikan, Mussulmans; Thomas of Marga, Isaac of Nineveh, Hanna of Adiabene, etc. Christians.
In 410, at the council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the Metropolitan of Adiabene had the united titles of Arbela, Hazza, Assyria, and Mossul (Chabot, “Synodicon orientate”, 265, 619). This is the earliest mention of the See of Mossul. It continued under the same style up to the seventh century. Soon after the Arab invasion the title of Adiabene was replaced by that of Assyria and Mossul. Le Quien (Oriens christ., II, 1215-1220) gives a long list of titulars from the seventh to the sixteenth century. Many of the Nestorian patriarchs of Mossul became converts and resided there, beginning with Elias Denham in 1751. As there was already a Catholic Chaldean patriarch at Diarbekir, Rome in 1828 and especially in 1830 brought about the union of the two Churches and Mar Elias, also known as John VIII, was recognized as the only patriarch. He transferred the residence of the see to Bagdad, and since that time the Chaldean patriarchs have again taken up their residence at Mossul. The Chaldean archdiocese numbers 20,000 souls; 45 secular priests; 12 parishes; and 13 churches. In the neighborhood of Alkosh is the convent of Rabban Hormuz, the home of the Antonian Congregation of St. Hormisdas of the Chaldean rite, who have two other convents in the diocese. The congregation numbers in all 63 religious of whom 30 are priests. The Jacobites took up their residence at Mossul at an early date, especially at the Convent of Mar Mattas, the principal center of their activity. There also since 1089 dwells the “Maphrian” or delegate of the patriarch for the ecclesiastical provinces in Persia, a title or office now purely honorary. The Monophysites are very numerous in the city and the diocese. The Syrian Catholic diocese numbers 6,000 souls; 20 priests; 7 parishes; and 10 churches. Le Quien (Oriens christ., II, 1559-1564) gives a list of Jacobite titularies of Mossul.
The Apostolic Mission of Mossul was founded in 1750 by Benedict XIV as a Prefecture Apostolic and entrusted to the Italian Dominicans who had repeatedly labored in the province from the thirteenth century onwards. Thanks to them, a Syrian Catholic diocese was erected at Mossul in that same year. In 1780, the Nestorian patriarch Mar Yohannan, who resided at Alkosh, 25 miles north east of Mossul, became a Catholic together with five bishops of his nation, the greater part of the inhabitants of his town, and of six villages in the vicinity. The French monks who replaced the Italians were able in 1856, thanks to M. Bore, and to the French Consul, the Assyriologist Botta, to open boys’ and girls’ schools, and to found a printing press for Arabic and Syriac works, and finally a college at Mossul. The Apostolic Mission at the present day is bounded by three other French Missions, those of the Capuchins at Mardin, the Carmelites at Bagdad, and the Lazarists in Persia. It includes the southeast of Mesopotamia, Kurdistan, and the northeast of Armenia Major, a stretch of territory covering the vilayets of Mossul, Bitlis, Van, and a part of Diarbekir. Besides the Arabs, Kurds, and Mussulman Turks (about 3,000,000), and the Yezidis or Devil-worshippers (about 30,000), the Mission numbers 300,000 schismatic Armenians: 70.000 Jacobites;30,000 Nestorians; 5000 Protestants; and 10,000 Jews. The Catholics of all the rites scattered through the territory amount to 80,000. The Mission has 23 Latin priests, all Dominicans, and 15 native priests who assist them in teaching. There are 9 Latin churches, 5 residential stations (Mossul, founded in 1750; Mar-Yakoub in 1847; Van in 1881; Seert in 1882; Djezireh in 1884), and 98 secondary stations visited by the missionaries. In 1910 a station was founded in the heart of the Nestorian patriarchate. The Syro-Chaldean Seminary, founded at Mossul in 1882, has educated more than 60 priests; it has between 50 and 60 students. There are 50 parochial schools for boys; 8 for girls; 1 Normal School for Chaldean Catholic teachers at Mar-Yakoub; 3 colleges for boys; 4 boarding schools for girls; 4 orphanages opened in consequence of the massacres of 1895. The Dominicanesses of the Presentation have houses at Mossul, Seert, and Van.