Reconstruction work begins on historic church in Iraq destroyed by ISIS

The Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul, Iraq, known as Al-Saa’a Church, will be restored as part of a project led by a partnership between UNESCO and the Emirates United Arabs.(Photo: UNESCO)

A church in Iraq destroyed by the Islamic State is slowly regaining its former glory.

Restoration work has begun at the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour of Mosul, also known as Al-Saa’a Church, which dates to the 1800s.

It is one of two iconic churches destroyed being restored as part of a partnership between UNESCO and the United Arab Emirates, the other being the Syriac-Catholic Al-Tahira Church.

“With the official approval of the Dominican Order, UNESCO – in close collaboration with the relevant authorities – will now begin the stabilization and rehabilitation of the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Hour in Mosul,” said UNESCO.

“The component of this project will include all phases of a stabilization and rehabilitation project – from site clearance and initial investigation to the preparation of detailed design for the actual execution of the works.”

Our Lady of the Hour is located in the heart of the historic old city of Mosul, it was badly damaged by Islamic State militants when they blew it up in 2017, causing the roof to collapse.

UNESCO said the church’s restoration was significant not only because of its cultural significance, but also because of its status as a “living example of brotherhood among Moslawis”.

“The rehabilitation of this church is important not only because of its value as cultural heritage but also as a testimony to the diversity of the city, a proud crossroads of cultures and a haven of peace for different religious communities over the centuries” , said UNESCO.

Commenting on the architectural significance of the monument, the international body said: “Every viewer coming from Nineveh or Al-Farouq Street would first see the Al-Hadba Minaret and then the bell tower of the Conventual Church of Our- Lady of the Hour, or vice versa.

“This architectural and urban feature is etched in the memory and history of the people and the city and is emblematic of the cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence between its communities.”

The United Arab Emirates is a funder of the restoration work, which is part of UNESCO’s international initiative “Reviving the Spirit of Mosul”. The initiative includes plans to build a museum and a memorial site.

Martha J. Finley