Mar Behnam restoration work: the structure is finished!

Mar Behnam restoration work: the structure is finished!

HERITAGE – At Mar Behman monastery, the structural work has ended with the rebuilding of the entry building, which gives access for the pilgrims to the mausoleum. It is now time for the stone restorers to start their thorough work.

Once the dome of Mar Behnam mausoleum and the slopes to evacuate rainwater finished, there was still some work to be done to give back to the site its original appearance!

This is how the local team of workers, under the lead of Guillaume, architect for Fraternity in Iraq, have worked tirelessly on reconstructing the entry building to let the visitors enter the saint mausoleum. 

Interior view of the dome of the mausoleum

After four weeks of work, the restoration of the building is coming to an end. It is composed of two rooms, a smaller one and a larger one, which grants access to the mausoleum. On the right side of the second room, going down a few stairs, which remain to be build, is the tomb. Facing the door, there is an apse. This intriguing detail could lead some to think that there might have been a small church there some time ago.    

A rebuilding true to the original architecture

This entry building is located at the entrance of the sanctuary, a few meters away from the mausoleum, also completely destroyed by Daesh in 2015. Although its origins remain quite uncertain, its function is clear as it used to shield the access tunnels to the mausoleum. The approach chosen by Fraternity in Iraq in order to carry out the renovation was the same as for the mausoleum: using local traditional techniques with old bricks and chalk as materials and arches and vaults for the architecture. 

The first room of the entry building

The second one, still in progress, which leads to the access tunels to the tomb (on the right)

The challenge of renovation

During three weeks, three experts came especially from France and methodically restored the stones and sculptures present in the building before it exploded. The remains of these elements were almost all found in the meticulous search of the 600 cubic meters of rubbles generated by the blast orchestrated by the jihadists. 

Click on the image below to watch the video

Thus, they were able to take of the varnish, which had been applied on all the pieces recovered but did not allow the stone to breathe. Then, they carefully put the broken stones back together and eventually placed those which had been detached from the main recess back where Mar Behnam’s remnants were.  Their rare and precious abilities also helped in covering up the damages and the various graffiti found, but above all, they brought on limited area, supplement to partial restorations. 

 Some work is still remaining at Mar Behnam! On the entry building, a stone lintel needs to be set up on the exterior door, windows frames need to be fixed, the floor has to be flattened and internal steps have to be built. When the finishing touches will be added, a cross will be set up at the top of the building and will put an end to the works.

Help us finish the reconstruction of this unique site in Iraq!

Fraternity in Iraq