Bazyan, one of the oldest churches in the Kurdistan Region
Was it a church or a castle? Historians and archaeologists have a hard time answering this seemingly simple question. Since it has collapsed, it is hard to tell. However, an Italian archaeological team that started excavating the site supported the opinion that it was a church.
Bazyan Church is located in the Takya district of Bazyan town, west of Sulaimani city. It dates back to 248-226 BC, the era of the Sassanid Empire. Archaeologists have found Sassanid currency during excavation.
“Historians and archaeologists first thought it was a castle,” said Mohammed Khidir, a local historian in Sulaimani. “But a local and Italian team found that it was an ancient church. It is close to the Bazyan River.”
The site needs more attention. In its current condition, it is at risk of suffering further damage.
“This is an important historical and archaeological site,” noted Khidir. “I hope that the government will do something to protect it from vanishing.”
Excavation and work stopped in the 1990s.
When it was vibrant during the Sassanid era, the church was crowded daily with worshipers and students. The church was also useful during droughts as it had a well that could provide water for the surrounding dwellers.
The remnants such as skulls, skeletons, artifacts, and traces of the Islamic Empire have been found and placed in the Sulaimani museum.
The ancient site cannot attract tourists given its current condition.
“This site could be another tourist attraction,” said Ali Qaraman, a local tourism expert. “However, no one wants to see it in this condition, as it needs renovation.”