The Monastery of St. Elian the Hermit "Whispers of the past and visions of the future"

Part II


Excavations in the Monastery

Excavations began with a stock-take of all the archaeological finds (including fragments of glassware and pottery) and a geophysical survey. The collapse of the church in 1938 was a genuine catastrophe in that it was one of the oldest churches in Quryatein, especially one where holy rites were still performed. However it did lead to the discovery that the church stood on the ruins of an older one from the 17th century, which itself was also built on the foundations of yet another church from the 16th century.

Another key discovery was the frame of a cover of an ammunitions storage chest.

This bore some similarity to the cover of the sarcophagus of the grave of St. Elian, both of them having been constructed from marble. The frontispiece consisted of two discs which were pierced to allow the extraction of holy oil from within the chest. This is since relics from the saints (a piece of bone, a finger or other bodily part) would be placed in the chest and then immersed in oil which was subsequently believed to become blessed.

Behind the western wall of the church were chambers set aside for storage, confirmed by the discovery therein of jars of various sizes. Also, a cemetery for the burial of monks was discovered next to the door of the church. This was discovered accidentally during the course of the dig, as was a structure that appears to have been used as living quarters for the monks. There appear to have been numerous guest chambers for visiting pilgrims needing shelter whilst they performed their devotions. Animal bones were also found, scattered amongst the rooms from calves, lambs and camels, as were several grindstones. Each room contained a fireplace and a collection of pottery and glassware fragments, pots, pans and several coins. There is evidence that ritual slaughter was carried out here, which demonstrates that religious rites were undertaken in the place during the Ottoman and Mamluk periods.

Continued excavation in the courtyard revealed a Byzantine church which would appear to have to been used during different periods of history from the Ayyubid and the Abbasid periods onwards. The discovery of this simple structure symbolised the very spirit of the area and perpetuation of monastic life and religious rites throughout the Byzantine, Abbassid, Ayyubid, Mamluk and even the Ottoman periods, saying a great deal about Christian architecture and religious practice during a period of predominantly Islamic rule.

Most significant was the discovery of a church that ran concurrent with the life of St. Elian in the 4th century A.D. This confirms the accuracy of the 17th and 18th century manuscripts stating that St. Elian was buried in this monastery. Also there is evidence from this period (St. Elian’s tomb and the doorway of the church which dates back to the 17th century A.D.), underlined in the texts carved in stone of the inside of the small monastery door dating back to the 14th century A.D. This text was intended to protect the monks of the time and reaffirms the existence of monastic life in this period. It all clearly confirms that there was indeed an old monastery in Quryatein during the lifetime of holy St. Elian.

Adopted by: Haifaa Mafalani

al-Aqrabiya Cave, one of the most important natural landscapes in Homs

About 13 kms to the west of al-Qusair city in Homs lies al-Aqrabiya Cave  which was discovered 12 years ago while workers were reinforcing al-Bassel Dam.

Chairman of al-Aqrabiya municipality Yousef  Dibo said that the cave, which is one of the most important natural landscapes in the region,  is similar to  Ja'eita cave in Lebanon.

He added that there is a need to put forward a plan to invest the site, provide it with the necessary services and qualify it to be a tourist destination.

Director of Homs Tourism Ahmed Akkash said that a specialized team was sent from al-Baath University to study the site  and renovate it.


Czech site: Syria has always formed a bridge between world civilizations and cultures

Prague, ST- The Czech "OKO" website confirmed that Syria has always formed a bridge between world civilizations and cultures due to its deep historical heritage.

The site indicated in a report that Syrian lands were a bridge between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions, pointing to the establishment of many large cities and commercial centers such as Mari and Palmyra in these two  rich and culturally advanced areas.

The Monastery of St. Elian the Hermit "Whispers of the past and visions of the future"

Part (1)

Syria is widely considered the birthplace of Christianity and boasts a wealth of religious sites which attract tourists from all over the world, including the Convent of Our Lady of Sednaya, the monasteries of Maaloula and the shrine of St. Marun, the patron saint of the Maronite sect. These are of great significance as primary sites of Christian worship. Every day, studies and investigations reveal new sites of interest and one of these is the Monastery of St. Elian the Hermit in Homs.

Situation of Syria’s ruins, archeological sites and museums

Syria's Director General of Antiquities and Museums Dr. Mahmud Hamoud speaks to Syria Times on the situation of Syria’s ruins, looting of archeological sites and museums, the government’s efforts to rebuild and protect the country’s heritage. 

Q: Commenting on the looting of Syria’s antiquities and archeological sites, pre-2011 and after the 2011 crisis in Syria, Dr. Mahmud Hamoud answered:

A: “The international museums of Louvre, Metropolitan and others have looted antiquities form the Arab orient. The Ottoman State was giving licenses to the foreign and European archeological missions to excavate the Syrian cultural monuments. Most of the archeological finds were taken by these missions to their countries’ museums.