This is the text of a lecture given on the occasion of a facsimile of the censer taken from Deir Mar Musa by Richard Burton in the C19th being returned to the Community at a reception at the British Council in Damascus on September 27th 2001. The images cannot be included as the copyright for those rests with the British Museum.
The Church of Mar Sarkis (St. Sergius) in Sadad is a Syrian Orthodox Church that dates back to late antiquity. It is principally notable for its extremely rare C18th wall paintings commissioned by Bishop Dioskoros Sarukhan, who is reported to have died in Sadad on 11th February 1769 at the age of 110.
The images are unique not only because they are they only surviving C18th cycle on the entire region, but also for the information that they give us about the veneration of local saints. The scenes include Mar Musa al-Habashi (St. Moses the Abyssinian or Ethiopian) and Mar Elian esh-Sharqi (St. Julian the Old Man) both of whom have local monasteries named after them at Qaryatayn and Nabk respectively. Whereas Mar Elian is depicted on the medieval frescoes at Deir Mar Musa, this is the earliest known depiction of Mar Musa. Other unusual scenes include Jonah and the whale and portraits of Bishop Dioskoros and other bishops. There is also a notable, apparently C19th, icon of Mar Sarkis in the church. Before the civil war the paintings were being restored by a team from the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and these images were taken in 2008 when the work was underway.
Tags: C18th, Church, Deir Mar Musa, Dioskoros Sarukhan, Fresco, Jonah, Mar Elian esh-Sharqi, Mar Musa al-Habashi, Mar Sarkis, Nabk, Qaryatayn, Sadad, St. Julian the Old Man, St. Moses the Abyssinian, St. Moses the Ethiopian, St. Sergius, Syria