Christians visit historical Church of Sultana Mahdokht in Duhok for annual ceremony

The story of this church has been passed down through generations.
author_image Kurmanj Nhili
Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

Hundreds of Christians held their special annual ceremony attended by senior religious leaders in the village of Araden in Duhok province, where the ancient Church of Sultana Mahdokht is located, on Sunday.

Worshippers lit candles and offered up prayers on the morning of May 15, as they do every year on this date.

They later celebrated the feast in Araden.

Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

According to local tradition, the village's name means Land of Eden. The name is derived from Ara, which means land in Syriac, and Aden meaning Eden refers to the village's natural beauty.

Araden is located at the foot of Metina Mountain and overlooks the Sapna valley. It is only 6 kilometers east of Bamarni.

Sultana Mahdokht is believed to have been constructed back to the 4th century, 319 A.D., when Sultana Mahdokht and her two brothers were killed.

The walls of the church are about 1.5 meters thick. Around 150 people can take shelter inside the building, and it's believed that the walls were built thick for protection against attacks.

The story of this church has been passed down through generations.

Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

According to story, Sultana Mahdokht, daughter of Prince Pholar, and her two brothers witnessed a miracle and converted and embraced Christianity.

This happened during the reign of King Shabur the Second (309-379) of the Sasanian Empire. At that time, Christians were persecuted because the state religion was Zoroastrianism.

The story ends with the three siblings keeping their faith in Christianity against the wishes of the prince and king, who had them killed.

After they were killed, a shepherd from the village built a church naming it after Sultana Mahdokht.

Amal Yousef, one of the Christians attending the feast, told Kurdistan 24 that many miracles have happened in this church.

"Christians come here and pray, especially for good health and cure for illnesses," she said. "Many times worshippers' prayers are answered."

Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Sultana Mahdokht church, Araden, Duhok. May 15, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

"We pray in the morning and stay with our friends and families until the evening, enjoying and celebrating this day in this wonderful sacred place," she added.

Young people light a candle and pray for a good life partner. This has become a tradition by now," she concluded.

Araden has another ancient church known as Mart Shmoni that is around 1,750 years old and located in the center of the village to the north. It was renovated in 1935.