One of the most significant centers of Christianity in the surrounding region, al-Qosh is an Assyrian-era city located along the foothills of surrounding mountains and a traditional place of worship of the Sumerian moon god Sin. Ancient visitors would travel to the city from Nineveh during the Babylonian New Year to replay the Enuma Elish, the Sumerian creation epic that is the oldest story of creation that we have in writing:
When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven…
The city is also known as the birthplace of the biblical figure Nahum, a prophet from the 7th century BCE who was said to have predicted the downfall of the Assyrian Empire. Today, the city still houses the Synagogue and Tomb of the Prophet Nahum, dating to 1173, which is revered by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis.
Christianity came to the city in the 7th century CE when a monk by the name of Hirmiz built a monastery, which became the seat of patriarchs from the Church of the East, followers of a Christian theology often referred to as Nestorianism that at its high point spread all the way to India and China. This monastery, reached by the Saints Valley, is today known as the Rabban Hormizd Monastery and is an important monastery of the Chaldean Church. Carved into the rocks two miles from al-Qosh and founded in 640 A.D, it still consists of caves and tunnels built into the cliffside.
Between the 16th 18th centuries, the Hormizd Monastery was the official residence of the Eliya line of the Church of the East, a branch which intentionally distanced itself from connections with Rome. The monastery was abandoned for a time in the 18th century and revived again in the 19th century; the library became famous to scholars around the world because of its rich collection of Syriac manuscripts. This monastery was also home to Yohannan Sulaqa, the bishop who formed the Chaldean Church, which is now the dominant church in al-Qosh. Because the monastery was so exposed to attack, a new monastery was built closer to the city in 1856 and is today known as Notre Dame de Semences.