PRILEP, Macedonia (AP) – Outside a small village near the border between Greece and Macedonia, a solitary nun keeps watch over a silent convent. She is the last caretaker of the site of significant historical developments spanning more than twenty centuries. 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.
However, that isn’t likely to happen soon, as Sister Maria, 53, enjoys excellent health. By her own estimate, she walks ten miles daily about the grounds of the convent, which once served as a base for the army of Attila the Hun. In 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 A.D. 439 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. It is thought that Attila wanted to study the Greek legal system and had the writs and other documents brought to the temple.
Scholars differ on why Attila had the valuable documents destroyed — either because he was barely literate and couldn’t read them, or because they described a democratic government that did not square with his preference for autocracy.
When the Orthodox Church took over the site in the 15th century and the convent was built, church leaders ordered the pagan statue of Eros destroyed, so another ancient Greek treasure was lost.
Today, there is only Sister Maria, watching over the silent convent on the site of the old Hun base, and when she goes, the convent will cease to be.
So that’s how it ends — with no Huns, no writs, no Eros, and nun left on base.