An important place of Christian pilgrimage, Maaloula – meaning the “entrance” in Aramaic – nestles at the bottom of a stone amphitheatre. In 2013 the attack by Al-Nusra Front jihadists against this predominantly Christian village caused the vast majority of its inhabitants to ﬂee – not to mention the tremendous destruction that was caused by the invasion. Nobody knows when St. Leontius’ Church was built, but history records that it was renovated in 1635, and now needs further restoration. During the 2013 conﬂict, St. Leontius’ Church was shelled; some walls have holes in them, left by shells. The church was also burnt, its icons damaged and defaced. Pews and other items in the church were burnt and others destroyed.
According to Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Emeritus Gregorios III, the violence and desectration in Maaloula deeply wounded the entire people of Syrian, because of the site’s historic, cultural and spiritual value. ISIS tried to eradicate Maaloula’s Christian heritage completely. The militants also targeted this place because it was a symbol of Christians and Muslims living together in peace and harmony.