The Nestorian Christians took their name from Nestorius (c.386-450), Archbishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, whose beliefs were condemned as heretical by the Council of Ephesus in 431. He is said not to have believed that Mary should be described as the “Mother of God” which was taken to mean that he did not believe that Jesus was truly God as well as Man. Nestorius retreated to Antioch (Antakya) but was later sent into exile in Egypt.

The Church of the East, however, refused to acknowledge his deposition and so became a splinter group that emphasised that God had two separate natures as God and as Man in Jesus that were nonetheless combined in the one deity. Orthodox Christianity preferred to emphasise God’s single nature, a doctrine known as Monophysitism that was later also condemned as heresy. The split between the the churches of east and west after the Council of Ephesus is known as the Nestorian Schism.

The Nestorian Church became strong in Persia (Iran) and was carried by missionaries to India and beyond. The Nestorian patriarch (catholicos) was based first in Ctesiphon, then in Baghdad, then in Mosul.

KonakIn Turkey Nisibis (Nusaybin) became the main centre of Nestorianism which took a strong hold in the mountainous areas of the far southeast. Then in the 16th century there was a further schism and a rival patriarch established himself in Koçanış, near Hakkari. All these patriarchs took the name Mar Shimun. They were not allowed to marry and the post was passed from uncle to nephew. In 1975 Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, who had been born in Koçaniş, was murdered in exile in San Jose where he had finally married. He was succeeded as patriarch by Iraqi-born Mar Dinkha IV who scrapped the rule requiring the post to be held by the same family. The current holder of the office is Mar Awa III.

In the 18th century the mainstream Nestorians submitted to the rule of the Pope and became known as Chaldeans. 

Today there are ruined Nestorian churches in many of the villages around Hakkari although little is known about them.


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