It gave its name to the neighbourhood around it, al-Saa – and overlooked it to the extent that the Dominican monks had to promise residents they would not climb the tower and peep down on residents sleeping on their roofs in the boiling summer months.
Mosul’s Clock Church pictured in the 1920s Credit: Lebrecht Photo Library/ALAMY
Richard Spencer, Middle East Editor
Islamic State jihadists have blown up one of Mosul’s best known remaining churches, known as the Clock Church after its tower, according to Iraqi news reports.
The clock tower was paid for by Empress Eugenie of France, wife of the last Emperor Napoleon III, as a gift to the Dominican Fathers who were building the church in the 1870s.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant made no statement about the destruction, and it was not clear why it should happen now.
They damaged and destroyed various historic sites and Christian and Muslim shrines and places of worship within a few weeks of taking over the city in June 2014.
But according to a number of outlets, the jihadist planted a number of explosives under it and detonated it on Monday morning.
Mosul has always been known as a city where Sunni Muslims, Christians, Shabaks, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians and Turkmens all co-existed, sometimes uneasily. It had more than 40 churches and monasteries at the time of the allied invasion of 2003.
Some had already been damaged by the time of the Isil takeover two years ago, including the Clock Church in a 2006 bombing.
The money for the tower was given by the Empress Eugenie as a reward for the Dominican friars’ attempts to end an outbreak of typhoid in the city.
Isil are under pressure in Mosul, with Kurdish forces to the north and Iraqi government and Shia militia forces to the south threatening to launch a bid to retake it.
The US-led coalition has also been bombing Isil strongpoints in the city for months, including the university, which it has taken over as a base.
However, there has also been an outbreak of fighting between Kurdish troops and Shia militias south-east of the city, and in-fighting in Iraq’s fractious politics makes a concerted attack unlikely any time soon.