The Destruction of History (Dennis Aubrey)


So many times we have written about the destruction of the great Romanesque and Gothic churches that we photograph. The litanies are endless and the wars tiresome in their repetition. The Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion, the French Revolution, World War I and World War II have all taken a huge toll on these magnificent buildings. But to witness the destruction taking place before our eyes brings a completely new dimension to my personal agony. In our article on the Taliban’s demolition of the Buddhas of Bamyan and the systematic destruction of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims in World War I, we touched on this.

The news the last few days is about ISIS attacking artifacts, some of them identified as antiquities from the seventh century B.C., with sledgehammers and drills, saying they were symbols of idolatry.

Assyrian statues of winged bulls

Assyrian statues of winged bulls

Now we have word that ISIS has defaced and destroyed artifacts in Mosul, including Assyrian statues of winged bulls from the Mesopotamian cities of Ninevah and Nimrud. Video released by the newest barbarians to assault the cultural history of humanity shows a man using a power drill to deface the works.

As so often throughout history, the excuse was religion. “The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him.” How many times in our work at Via Lucis have we read variations of these words from Catholics, Huguenots, Calvinists, revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, and military leaders?

ISIS destroying Assyrian statues of winged bulls

ISIS destroying Assyrian statues of winged bulls

I had thought that perhaps I was inured to these heartless destructions with all of the churches that we have documented that have been brutally pillaged and defaced, all in the name of whatever excuses fit the vandals. But the truth is that I am just as sickened with a sense of loss today as I have ever been.

Defaced statues, Basilique Sainte Madeleine, Vézelay (Yonne)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Defaced statues, Basilique Sainte Madeleine, Vézelay (Yonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

If you have the stomach for it, you can read more here.

18 responses to “The Destruction of History (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. I think perhaps I imagine the folks who did the earlier destruction as different from those of us living today. Silly me. As ever, it is ignorance and absolutely no sense of how these objects of scorn and hatred should be valued instead. Ignorance and tools of destruction…a putrid combination.

  2. At the beginning of the Iraq war a GI was interviewed as they were ‘going in’. I got angry at his statement that “We’re going to bring these guys some culture.” I was furious to find the US army had dug latrines in one of the ancient palaces. However, seeing this wanton vandalism of artefacts that have survived over 1200 years has made my blood boil!

    And so the cradle of civilisation is destroyed.

  3. Some people create and some people destroy… it’s the dichotomy of humanity… always has been, always will be…

  4. Words will never describe the loss of these cultural artifacts. I am saddened and still somewhat maddened by the wanton destruction in the name of any religion.

  5. It is a sad sad story, what can be said of people who would film a man being burned alive and post the video for all to see. They have no respect for people, history or art, and it is a sad sad thing.

  6. Such wanton hatred of something left behind by a far older culture is beyond me. I can understand thinking it ugly or silly or useless, but to destroy for the sake of your present religion saying that an idol is to be destroyed regardless of the historical or cultural value is stupidity on a grand scale. I am tired of people destroying things because the religion says so.

  7. It’s scarcely unique in history…let’s add the Byzantine iconoclasts to the list…..but shows us the results of allowing any religious persuasion to have physical, governmental, power.
    It makes me sick to the heart.

  8. And then, in the face of all this de-facing, all this unrighteous righteousness, all this terror and destruction in the name of the Prophet, there sounds the quiet voice of the prophet Micah: “I have too you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) And the tears of Jeremiah, Jesus, and the Buddha are falling over these pictures and the carnage. Thank you, Dennis, for sharing your tears.

    • Gordon, fanaticism has always terrified me, and it is so distressing to witness it so close to home. We might see this happen right here. There is such an attack on education and knowledge. How difficult it must be for you to see religion so abused by its own adherents.

  9. Pingback: Their Blood Runs in Mine | VIEWS from the EDGE

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