BAGHDAD — Places traditionally visited by Iraqi Christians for the spring holidays are remarkably deserted this year, including the Chaldean Church's Monastery of Markourkas, or St. George, which sits in the Hay al-Arabi region on a hill overlooking the northern part of the city of Mosul. The monastery, the most prominent in Ninevah, recently became the subject of numerous reports after the Islamic State (IS) attacked it March 16, shattering crosses, statues, bells and sculptures, destroying paintings and removing tombstones.
According to historical sources, in particular the book "Markourkas" by Father Joseph Habbi, it once served as a church for a village called Bouira. The date of the church's founding is unknown, although some reports point to the mid-10th century. The monastery rose in importance as Mosul came to represent a stronghold of Iraqi Christians until IS forced them to leave in July 2014.