Bones of Christian Saint Discovered in Syrian Monastery Destroyed by ISIS

The Syrian town of Al-Qaryatain has been liberated this week.

The Remains of Saint Elian were found under a Sarcophagus
Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty ImagesThe saint who lived in the fifth century AD had his destroyed by jihadists of the Islamic State group when they took control of al-Qaryatain in 2015. The head of the monastery, Syriac Catholic Priest Jacques Mourad, confirmed after looking at this AFP picture that this was the destroyed sarcophagus of Saint Elian. / AFP / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

The bones of a Christian saint, St Elian, have been discovered in an ancient monastery destroyed by ISIS in Al-Qaryatain, a Syrian town which has been reclaimed this week by the Syrian army.

Al-Qaryatain, which lies between Palmyra and Damascus, was a place of pilgrimage for Muslims and Christians, and a symbol of people of both faiths co-existing peacefully.

Before ISIS arrived in the town in August 2015, it had a population of about 40,000 Sunni Muslims and Christians, as well as others who had fled fighting in Homs.

When ISIS took possession of the town, many Christians fled, but the Reverend Jacques Mourad was captured and the 5th century-era monastery and church of St Elian were bulldozed and ransacked, as is their common practice.

The Church of the monastery of St Elian Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

The Church of the monastery of St Elian. 
Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images.

During the months that ISIS held control of the town, Christians living there were forced to renounce their faith or face the consequences. Reverend Mourad was lucky enough to escape after being held for three months. Many Christians fled, while others have disappeared.

The Remains of Saint Elian Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

The remains of St Elian. 
Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images.

“I am filled with grief, and I choose to remain silent, because in the face of everything that is happening, silence is the most fitting answer,” Mourad told AFP.

AFP sent images of the remains of St Elian, which were found under a broken lid of a sarcophagus, to Mourad via whatsapp. “These are indeed his sarcophagus and his remains,” he confirmed.

The altar burnt and destroyed by ISIS <br> Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

The altar burnt and destroyed by ISIS. 
Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images.

Journalists have just been allowed access to a small portion of the city, which has been cleared of mines by the Syrian army.

This allowed them access to the site and thus the remains of St Elian and the monastery and church, which had been emblazoned by ISIS with the quotation: “‘We faced you in battle like hungry lions who find the flesh of the enemy to be the most delicious” and signed: “The Lions of the Caliphate.”

St Elian was martyred in 284 AD, when the Romans killed him after he refused to renounce his Christian faith.


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