In 284 St. Elian, a physician, refused to renounce Christianity and was killed by his father. The site of his death in Homs, Syria soon became a locus of miracles and devotion, and a Church was was raised there in the late 5th century. A stone sarcophagus was built in side chapel to house his remains. A monastery grew at the location.
Some time this month, all of that history and devotion was ground into dust by barbarians. ISIS has released photos (and possibly a video, though I haven’t been able to find it) that show them destroying the site. They allegedly smashed their way into St. Elian’s tomb, then brought in heavy machinery to do the rest.
There are pictures circulating showing uncovered bones. Some are saying these are the bones of St. Elian, but I don’t think they are. It’s unclear at this moment what became of St. Elian’s remains, but from the reports I’m reading it appears that the entire site was bulldozed. That would include the tomb, the church, the remains, and the frescos uncovered during restorations:
Some videos online claim to show the destruction, but they appear to show a different site. Right now, it’s all very sketchy, with only a few pictures in ISIS Twitter accounts and scattered reports. The media is filling in the scant details with a lot of speculation, so I’ve tried to sift it all as well as possible.
Worse than the loss to history is the human loss: Father Jacques Mouraud was kidnapped in the area on May 21st and is still missing. Fr. Mourad was the abbot of St. Elian, and had been working since 1991 to rebuild and restore the site.
Revelation of the destruction follows news earlier this week of the torture and beheading of leading Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad. al-Asaad had worked excavating and preserving the site of Palmyra for 40 years, and some called him the Howard Carter of Syria. Reports vary as to whether the 82-year-old was killed for collaboration and idolatry (including appearances at archaeology conferences with infidels), or because he refused to disclose the location of treasure, which ISIS imagined he was hiding somewhere in the ruins. al-Asaad had made important discoveries at the ancient site, and was an expert in Aramaic. Please pray for the repose of his soul.