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Monastic Fantastic

Smithsonian reports on the “rediscovery” of a patristic-era monastery in Iraq.

In Iraq, a Monastery Rediscovered
Near Mosul, War Has Helped and Hindered Efforts to Excavate the 1,400-Year-Old Dair Mar Elia Monastery

By James Foley

A soldier scaled the fragile wall of the monastery and struck a pose. His buddies kept shouting up to him to move over some.

He shifted to the left and stood the stadia rod straight to register his position for the survey laser on the tripod below.

The 94th Corps of Engineers of Fort Leonard Wood, whose members normally sprint to their data points in full body armor and Kevlar helmets, are making a topographical map of the ancient Assyrian monastery that until recently had been occupied by the Iraqi Republican Guard and then by the 101st Airborne Division in the once verdant river valley near Mosul.

The Dair Mar Elia Monastery is finally getting some of the expert attention that the 1,400-year-old sacred structure deserves.

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