St. Mary Church (Also known as Naneh Maryam Church) is an ancient Assyrian church located in the city of Urmia (Orumieh). It is considered by some historians to be the second oldest church in Christendom after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank.
It suffices to say that it was built on the tomb of three magi who passed here on their way to Bethlehem. This ancient church, which its existence is directly merged with magi men, those who were mentioned in the holy book, in Assyrian language are called "Mart Maryam " or " Mat Maryam " Or saint "Ezra", according to different stories , at least one out the three mentioned men are buried here in the basement of this church in the world, since the church which was built upon Jesus birthplace in Bethlehem is the first and Saint Mary's church was erected at the same time.
Archeological experts attribute Maryam Church to Sassanid Period based on examining and studying internal architecture, domes, arches, and pillars.
It is believed by some Assyrian and Christian historians that it had been a Fire temple at first in which Zoroastrian priests used to pray. At Jesus Christ' time of birth, three priests observed a shining star moving toward east. They considered it as a sign of awaited Messiah's birth and traveled to Jerusalem to meet him. After coming back they converted the fire temple to a church.
Briefly prior to the World War I, it was converted by the Russians to a Russian Orthodox church. In early 1960s, the old church was restored and a modern church with a spire was built adjacent to the ancient church.
Archeological experts attribute Maryam Church to Sassanid Period based on examining and studying internal architecture, domes, arches, and pillars. Like all other regional churches, the entrance is a relatively small one and in order to get to the main hall, one must follow some steps down. The building encompasses an altar, several chambers, a vestibule and the main hall.