Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dair Mar Elia, Iraq's oldest Christian monastery

Situated just south of Mosul, St. Elijah's Monastery, called Dair Mar Elia by locals, was the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq. The monastery was founded in 595 AD by Mar Elia, an Assyrian monk. For centuries, Dair Mar Elia was the center of the region's Christian community, who would visit every year to observe the Mar Elia Holiday, which falls on the last Wednesday of November. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ's name, were carved near the entrance

In 1743, the Persian leader Tahmaz Nadir Shah ordered the destruction of the monastery and the death of the monks who dwelt there for refusing to convert to Islam. Even though it was left abandoned for the next 200 years, it still attracted visitors to its ruins. Some restoration took place in the beginning of 20th century, and during the Second World War the monastery became a place of refuge for the local population.

A significant restoration effort was initiated, ironically, by the US army during the Iraq War. The monastery was enclosed inside the American Forward Operating Base Marez, initially becoming the base's garbage dump. An eagle symbol was painted on an ancient wall, while another wall was smashed by a tank turret blown off in battle. After an American military chaplain realised the monastery's significance, the US troops made a topographical survey of the site and continued guarding it even after the base was vacated. Iraqi archaelogists started working at the site for the first time since before the Second Gulf War in May 2008.

The monastery, which survived complete destruction by war and conquerors for 1400 years, was completely demolished by ISIS at some point before September 2014.




SEE ALSO: More abandoned places in Iraq // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES 
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August 19. 2009



August 21, 2009



December 7, 2005

In this Aug. 19, 2009, photo provided by US Army reserve Col. Mary Prophit, Suzanne Bott leads a tour at St. Elijah's monastery, or Dair Mar Elia, in Mosul, Iraq. Bott spent more than two years surveying and restoring the site as a U.S. State Department cultural adviser in Iraq

November 7, 2008



A 2010 Catholic Easter service held at the monastery for US soldiers

Top picture taken on March 31, 2011, bottom taken on September 28, 2014


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1 comment:

  1. I'm neither religious nor political, but this post still strikes me as very sad. A place that survived so much for so long ended up as a spray painted garbage dump, then ultimately destroyed.

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