ISIS has continued its destruction of world heritage sites within its reach with the demolition of a 1,400-year-old Christian monastery in Iraq, new, high-powered satellite imagery confirmed Wednesday. The 27,000-square-foot St. Elijah’s Monastery near Mosul in northern Iraq was the oldest Christian monastery in the country.
Here’s more on the history of the monastery from the Associated Press:
St. Elijah’s Monastery stood as a place of worship for 1,400 years, including most recently for U.S. troops. In earlier millennia, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches, prayed in the chapel, worshipped at the altar. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ’s name, were carved near the entrance… Before it was razed, a partially restored, 27,000-square-foot stone and mortar building stood fortress-like on a hill above Mosul. Although the roof was largely missing, it had 26 distinctive rooms including a sanctuary and chapel.
In June 2014, ISIS took the city of Mosul and with it the nearby monastery. The Associated Press enlisted a satellite imagery firm that confirmed the structure was destroyed shortly after ISIS took control, in August or September of 2014. “Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of gray-white dust. They destroyed it completely,” imagery analyst Stephen Wood, CEO of Allsource Analysis, told the AP.
“The Islamic State has damaged or destroyed scores of historic sites and monuments as part of a nihilistic campaign to eradicate remnants of cultures it considers anathema to its extremist vision of Islam,” the New York Times notes. “They have included ancient ruins like Nineveh, Nimrud and the tomb of Jonah in Iraq; Palmyra in Syria; and medieval Islamic sites like the tombs of Yahya ibn al-Qasim and Ibn Hassan Aoun al-Din in Mosul.”