Sadly, new satellite images confirm what many have feared – the St. Elijah’s Monastery of Mosul has been razed to the ground. Reverent Paul Thatib Habib, who used to spearhead the church but was since exiled to Erbil in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, was said to have stared hopelessly at before and after pictures of the Christian monastery which used to sit on top of a hillside in Mosul city.
Paul Thatib Habib was reportedly highly distressed due to the satellite discovery: “I can’t describe my sadness – our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled. We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.” For centuries, the monastery has remained a site of pilgrimage for devout Christians worldwide.
The monastery was erected some 1400 years ago and has since survived assaults by nature and man; however, it seems it was unable to survive the surge of ISIS. The monastery, called Dair Mar Elia, is named for the Assyrian Christian monk — St. Elijah — who built it between 582 and 590 A.C. It was a holy site for Iraqi Christians for centuries, part of the Mideast’s Chaldean Catholic community. In earlier centuries, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches and prayed in the cool chapel.
Regrettably, St. Elijah’s joins a growing list of more than 100 demolished religious and historic sites, including mosques, tombs, shrines and churches in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Furthermore, ISIS militants have defaced or ruined ancient monuments in Nineveh, Palmyra and Hatra of which they considered contrary to their interpretation of Islam.
According to imagery analyst Stephen Wood, the date of destruction was identified as being between Aug. 27 and Sept. 28, 2014. Before it was razed, images show a partially restored, 27,000-square-foot religious building. However, according to Mr. Wood: “The stone walls have been literally pulverized. Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of gray-white dust. They destroyed it completely,”. Sadly, he added that “There’s nothing to rebuild.”
Thus, more than a millennium old cultural heritage in Mosul has been suddenly and abruptly been put to an end.