In addition to tens of thousands of lives, the ongoing civil war in Syria has now claimed the minaret of one of the world’s most picturesque mosques.
The 145-foot-high minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in the city of Aleppo, dating back to 1090, was destroyed Wednesday during fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces.
The mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, was founded by the Umayyad Caliphate in 715 on the site of a Byzantine church. It had to be rebuilt after being damaged by a fire in 1159, and again following the Mongol invasion in 1260, according to the BBC.
However, the minaret was oldest surviving part of the structure.
In addition, other parts of the mosque complex – much of which date from the 1200s – have been badly damaged by gunfire and artillery shells.
It’s unclear at present which side is responsible for the damage.
The state news agency Sana claimed rebels forces “… placed explosive materials in the minaret and the mosque’s southern door and set them off.”
However, rebels say the minaret was struck by fire from a Syrian army tank.
Internet images show the minaret reduced to rubble.
The mosque has suffered extensive damage during months of fighting.
In addition to antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades affected, there have been reports that ancient artifacts have also been looted, including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Muhammad’s hair.
Whichever side is responsible, there’s little question the loss is devastating.
The minaret was designed by a noted 11th century architect, Hasan ibn Mufarraj al-Sarmini, who lived in a village near Aleppo.
According to historical lore, Hasan sought to strengthen the minaret’s foundations by digging down until he reached water, then setting foundation stones and strengthening them with metal brackets, according to the 1972 work, An Outline of Islamic Architecture.
He then constructed the minaret in six sections, with a staircase featuring 174 steps.