New satellite images have confirmed the destruction of Iraq’s oldest Christian monastery by ISIS militants
The pictures obtained by the Associated Press shows a field of scrubby powder near Mosul where the stone walls and fortifications of St Elijah’s monastery had stood for more than 1,400 years.
St Elijah’s is the latest Iraqi heritage site to be obliterated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The group has also destroyed monuments in the cities of Hatra and Nineveh.
In neighbouring Syria ISIS also flattened ancient ruins in Palmyra including the Temple of Bel (pictured below) as well three 2,000-year-old Syrian tower tombs, built between 44 and 103 AD (see AJ 05.10.15).
According to Stephen Wood of Allsource Analysis, the destruction at Mosul took place sometime between August and September 2014.
Wood described the site as ’literally pulverized’ and said that ‘bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of grey-white dust’.
The monastery was founded in the late 6th century AD by an Assyrian monk called Mar Elia. Roughly a millennia later it was renovated by Hurmizd Alqushnaya.
In 1743, the Persian leader Tahmaz Nadir Shah ordered the building to be destroyed along with all those living there. Though the monks died, most of the structure survived.
The 27,000-square-foot stone ruins had 26 distinct rooms including a chapel and sanctuary, niches and gateposts and was still used for Christian services and visited by pilgrims.
Father Paul Thabit Habib told the Associated Press that the Christian history of the country was ’being barbarically levelled’.
Temple of Bel, Palmyra