Deir Mar Musa; interior | 11th -13th century |Damascus | Photographer: James J. O’Donnell

Georgetown University’s James J. O’Donnell is contributing images of Deir Mar Musa, a monastic compound north of Damascus, to the Artstor Digital Library. Here, O’Donnell gives us a short history of the site and shares his experience of visiting.

Deir Mar Musa began life as a Byzantine watchtower, served as a medieval hermitage and modern monastery, fell into disrepair and neglect, and was then brought back to life a few years ago as a brave and venturesome monastic community and place for Christian and Muslim Syrians to meet in mutual respect. It has become a different kind of watchtower and monastery in the face of the murderous upheaval all around it.