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St. Mary Church, the second oldest church in the world in Iran.
In this video and documentary, you can beautifully see the Traces of Early Christianity in Iran."
St. Mary Church is one of the beautiful attractions of Urmia that dates back to the Assyrian people. This church had been restored several times; current façade dates back to the Sasanian Empire. Some archaeologists believe it is the second oldest church in the world after the Bedkhem Church in Palestine. This old church is also known as Mother Mary church and East Assyrian Church.
According to Assyrian writers, St. Mary Church was a Zoroastrian fire temple; it has been a burial ground during the last centuries. At the birth of Christ, the Zoroastrian priests who lived in this temple see a bright star moving to the east, find it as a sign of Christ birth, then they went to Jerusalem. The priests returned to Urmia and turned the fire temple to a church.
You will see an old architectural style in the current structure that dates back to the Sasanian Empire. Due to the studies, archaeologists say that dome and arches belong to the Sasanian Empire. The interior design of this church is a combination of Sasanian and Parthian Empire’s architecture. On the both side of entrance corridor there are two spaces with some graves that belong to the Christian clergy. On the right of Mihrab, there is a narrow and short corridor which has a tandoor on the wall using for cooking sacred bread. Due to ignoring of Assyrian people about the ornamentation in architecture, there is no ornamentation in this church. There is a portrait of Jesus on the back of the altar; it is the position of the priest in religious ceremonies. Sahn (courtyard) is an extensive area with two entrance gate.
Urmia has a cold climate in West Azerbaijan Province. If you want to see this city and enjoy your journey, the best time is from late June until early September. During this period, the average temperature is about 17 degrees Celsius. Moreover, you can visit this city and enjoy the attractions during early June and late September.