A Macedonian Nun’s Tale

Outside a small Macedonian village close to the border between Greece and the former Yugoslavia, a lone Catholic nun keeps a quiet watch over a silent convent. When Sister Maria Cyrilla of the Order of the Perpetual Watch dies, the convent of St. Elias will be closed by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Macedonia. She is the last caretaker of a site of significant historical developments spanning more than 2000 years.

At least Sister Maria, 53, enjoys excellent health. She walks 10 miles daily about the grounds of the convent, which once served as a base for the army of Attila the Hun. In more ancient times, a Greek temple to Eros, the God of love, occupied the hilltop site.

Historians say that Attila took over the old temple in 439 CE and used it as a base for his marauding army. The Huns are believed to have first collected and then destroyed a large gathering of Greek legal writs at the site. Scholars differ on why Attila had the valuable documents destroyed – either because he was barely literate and couldn’t read them, or because they provided evidence of a democratic government that did not square with his own rule by fiat.

When the Greek Church took over the site in the 15th century and the convent was built, church leaders ordered the pagan structure of Eros destroyed, so another Greek treasure was lost. Today, there is only the lone sister, watching over the Hun base, amidst the strife of the former Yugoslavia, and when she dies, that will be it.

That’s where it stands: No Huns, no Writs, no Eros, and Nun left on base.