Ezra has two ancient, small churches, still in use, which date back to the 6th century. We firstly visited St. Georges, a Syrian Orthodox church which has 515 over one of its entrances together with the following inscription shown in the photo:

“What was once an abode of demons has become a house of God, where once sacrifices were made to idols, there are now choirs of angels, where God was provoked to wrath, now He is propitiated.”

(Monuments of Syria p.122)

As can be surmised from the inscription, the church is built on the site of a Roman temple.

The female caretaker who lives near to the church was very happy to open it up for us.

Ezra is not too far from Bosra and the whole region is basalt, so the church is also built of the black stone.

Inside it is very simple and, so we were told, the congregation still meet each Sunday to worship in this church which is almost 1500 years old.

Next we went to the Syrian Catholic church of St Elias a short way along the road where the priest showed us round. Bur first of all he was at pains to point out that the official date of his church, 1542, was wrong by 30 years.

Do the sum and you’ll see that makes his church the oldest.

We didn’t dare ask him how he explained the 542 carved over one of the doors. His church was also simple and primitive outside as you can see:

But inside all the walls were plastered, painted white and adorned with modern images from the bible. We decided to trust our book, ‘Monuments of Syria’ and ignore the priest’s claim to a change of a date.

It will be interesting to see if he celebrates 1500 years of usage of the church in 2012.