Basil of Beth Man'em

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Note: This article or section represents an Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonian) perspective, which may differ from an Eastern Orthodox (Chalcedonian) understanding.

St. Basil of Beth Man'em, better known as Mor Baselios Sham'un, was a Maphrian of the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church in its upper Mesopotamian heartlands in what today is northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey during the 18th century. St. Basil of Beth Man'em is commemorated in the Syriac Orthodox Church on April 6.


St. Basil was born Sham'un (Simon) Malke and raised in Beth Man'em. Sometime before 1695 he became a monk on Tur Abdin and was [ordination|ordained]] to the priesthood. On Tur Abdin, Fr. Sham'un became renowned for his virtuous life and asceticism and was eventually consecrated Maphrian of the East by the Patriarch of Antioch in 1710. It was at his elevation to the episcopacy that the Saint was given the name Baselios (Basil).

Not long after his consecration, in 1711, St. Basil returned to his life as a monk and did not resume the oversight of Tur Abdin, which had been entrusted to his case as maphrian, until 1727. He served his diocese faithfully until 1740, when the Kurdish chieftain Abdal Agha sent him to Muhammad Bey of the Jazirah to have him killed.

When the Maphrian arrived in Bohta, the seat of Muhammad Bey, he was given a cup of poison to drink. After blessing it with the sign of the Cross the Saint drank the poison with no ill effects. When the slave who had mixed the drink rinsed it with water and tasted it (on Muhammad Bey's orders) he became ill and died that day.

Having failed to poison St. Basil, Muhammad Bey asked him to sing and dance for him, knowing that this was forbidden hierarchs and that he would then have a pretext to kill him. The Maphrian apologized for being unable to dance and proceeded to recite his famous Kurdish-language poem ("Lavej"). Hearing this, Muhammad Bey returned St. Basil to Abdal Agha, who put him in jail.

On the night of Holy Friday, St. Basil called his students Metropolitan Mor Ruzq'allah of Mosul and Deacon Danho of Dayro d'Saliba to him and prophesied that he would be killed the next day. On Holy Saturday (April 6, 1740) the Saint was called before Abdal Agha, who demanded that the Maphrian give one of Abdal Agha's servants permission to marry against the canons of the Church. When St. Basil refused to give the marriage his blessing he was thrown down from a high roof and martyred for the Faith.

After St. Basil's death a light was seen descending from heaven to cover his body. St. Basil remains well known to this day for his many erudite works (primarily written in the Syriac) and ranging in nature from theological treatises and sermons to poetry.

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