Tangible and Intangible Heritage of Maaloula

Workshop: “Tangible and Intangible Heritage of Maaloula”

University of Tübingen: 7 November – 9 November 2016

Website here.

The workshop at the University of Tübingen will bring together experts from Syria and Germany to discuss the tangible and intangible heritage of Maaloula, to review the damage and loss of cultural and immaterial heritage and to explore possibilities of Arab-German cooperation to work together in post-conflict recovery efforts.


The village of Maaloula is located 57km north of the Syrian capital of Damascus at the foot of the Qallamoun mountains and is one of the three remaining villages, where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. While the language died out elsewhere many centuries ago, the locals of Maaloula – due to the isolating geological features of the village – preserved the Aramaic language and today the villagers represent an important source for anthropological linguistic studies. Defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as “definitely endangered” language, the preservation of Aramaic is important to transmit teachings, customs and oral traditions and to preserve its unique culture.

Furthermore, Maaloula is considered an important religious center, containing one of the earliest churches and monasteries in the world. Its historic, religious, architectural and linguistically uniqueness makes Maaloula a highly important research area.

However, the village was partly destroyed in the Syrian Civil War and important religious buildings such as the Greek Catholic monastery of St. Sergius, were badly damaged and valuable religious icons and artefacts were destroyed. Today, the village is liberated. Currently the evaluation of the damage is carried out leading to the result that the damages basically concerned the Saint Thecla Monastery and the tangible heritage, such as icons and Christian statues. The Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) started with the restoration of the various monuments in Maaloula and at the same time prepared a schedule for the restoration and rehabilitation of the remaining object. These activities of course can only be undertaken in a secure environment.


The objective of this workshop is to explore the current situation in Maaloula by reviewing the damage and loss of cultural and immaterial heritage due to the Syrian Civil War. Measures of how to further protect and safeguard the tangible and intangible heritage through enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building are explored. Maaloula is the ideal example to discuss urgent questions of archaeological, social and academic relevance.