The convent of the Lady of Diman
The Church of St. John The Baptist in Jbeil
The convent of St. Maroun Annaya (St. Charbel Makhlouf)
The Convent of St. Joseph at Jrebta – Batroun (The blessed Rafka)
The convent of the Holy Savior in the Chouf
Our Lady of Harissa
The Virgin of Mantara – Maghdoucheh
The statue of the Virgin in Zahleh
The Virgin of Beshouat
The Saint – Paul Basilica – Harissa
At the end of the XXth century, and within the civilisation that intends to abolish the sacred symbols, Lebanon is still an exceptional oasis of hope.
This is not surprising, because the Lebanese lives in the shadow of two homes, the paternal home and the home of God the father. That is why, wherever he is, in Lebanon or abroad, he deprives himself from food and pleasure in order to use his savings to renew, widen or decorate his church.
Moreover, the Lebanese people agree, in spite of their different communities and confessions, to respect and to honor some sanctuaries which gained a national characteristic. They visit them frequently and when they return to their home country from emigration, they are eager to visit these sanctuaries at any cost. We will review hereafter the most known Christian sanctuaries.
The convent of the Lady of Bkerké was transformed to winter residence of the Maronite Patriarch by a decree in 1790. "The convent of Bkerké will be the permanent Patriarchal See instead of the convent of Our Lady of Cannoubine". This decree was not implemented till 1830, during the Patriarch Joseph Hobeiche's time who settled at Bkerké. Until today, his successors spend there, all winters. The decree transferring the residence to Bkerké was the sign of a radical change in Lebanon’s history. After being a place of refuge, Lebanon became a home; and after being a refugee, The Maronite Patriarch felt responsible of a precious trust: "The Glory of Lebanon".
The Patriarchal residence is at twenty kilometers from Beirut. It is situated up a green hillside in Kesrwan at 200 m. of altitude. It has a panoramic view on the marvelous bay of Jounieh. The Christians of all communities come on Sundays and on feast days, to participate to the service celebrated in the church by his Beatitude the Patriarch and to listen to his fatherly sermon. During the year, groups of different classes and regions come to express to his Beatitude their complaints and to implore his help: first his advice, and then his intervention. Morever all the responsible personalities, the Lebanese and the foreigners go to Bkerké to inform his Beatitude of the current events and to demand his advices.
The See of Bkerké is unique in the world. it is a Lebanese religious reference, it is also an international reference.
It is not surprising that Bkerké archives contain very precious documents as for their ancientness and variety. One of the documents dates back to the XIIIth century. It is the letter sent by the Pope Innocent III to the Patriarch Jérémie Amchiti inviting him to participate in the fourth ecumenical council of Latran. This letter was written in Latin, on deer leather in 1215.
convent of the Lady of Diman
It is the summer residence of the Maronite Patriarch. The Patriarch Elias Hoyek (1899 – 1931) decided in his first year of Patriarchate, to build it on a high hill of 1350m., over-looking the Holy Kadisha Valley where the convent of Cannoubine, the former patriarchal see (1440-1830) is situated. That is why, the Patriarch Hoyek called it "the New Cannoubine". He put the inaugural stone on the 28th of September 1899. Later, he asked his nephew the painter Youssef Saadallah El-Hoyek to paint the Assumption of the Holy Virgin on the main apse. The Patriarch Antoine Arida (1932-1955) built the beautiful church which remains a rare wonder, thanks to the great inspiration and to the exceptional talent of the painter Saliba Doueihi who decorated the ceiling and the walls of the church with beautiful paintings: The apotheosis of the Christ risen and ascending to Heaven, the apotheosis of Mary in her Assumption and crowning, the apotheosis of the earth nature, God’s creation.
It is the Holy Valley which lies along 35 km; from the Cedars of the Lord to Tripoli. It was the refuge of the Maronites who came in the Middle of the VIIth century and lived all together, the Patriarch, the monks, the hermits, the people and the churches. Everything in the Valley, recalls the struggle for the safeguard of the faith. Before the Maronites came, the convent of Cannoubine was, in the VIth century, a place where the hermits used to meet before they go to live in seclusion. It was Theodore the Great (379-395) who founded this convent, and dedicated it to the care of the Virgin Mary. The word Cannoubine is of a Greek origin and means community life.
Cannoubine remained during four centuries, the vivid center of the maronite community. The cells are graved in the rocks and its church is under the patronage of the Virgin Mary as it was since its foundation. We can find there icons of the XVth and XVIth centuries and documents written in Syriac and Latin.
The Kadisha Valley includes also the convent of St. Antoine Kozhaya which dates back to the XIIth century. It is protected by the angels of the heavens. The turkish soldiers pillaged it in 1866 and took all its possessions. However, we can find there some sacred vestments weaved in golden and silver thread, a precious crozier and a mass paten offered by the kings of France. We can read on the Paten the following inscription: Offered to the convent of Kozhaya in 1100. The convent was restored in 1926, just near the caves where the hermits lived. The church is hewed out of the rock.
In this Valley the first printing machine in Lebanon was installed on 1610.
The Balamand Monastery is situated on a hill over looking the road of Tripoli-Beirut and Particularly the Calamoun. The view from the monastery reaches the port of Tripoli. It was a cistercian abbey, built on byzantine ruins, in 1157, and abandoned in 1289. In 1603, a monastic orthodox Community came to settle there. It transformed the old meeting room, built in the XIIth century, into a church dedicated to St. George. A procession cross in pure silver was brought from Cyprus. In 1835, the monks founded a high teaching institution by a Firman of the Sultan. In 1899, a major seminary was opened as well as a secondary school which is in a continous renovation.
The Balamand University was founded in 1988, on a campus of 300.000 Km2.
Church of St. John The Baptist in Jbeil
The church of St. John the Baptist is situated in the heart of the town where Cadmous took the alphabet to all over the world. The construction started with the Crusades in 1115, but the western façade is entirely modern.
The domes are purely of roman style. The south portal dates back to the end of the XIIth century.
The baptistry, built around 1200, is purely roman. The sculptures and the rosettes mark an Italian influence which is comprehensible in a town that was a Genoese domain.
convent of St. Maroun Annaya (St. Charbel Makhlouf)
The road from Jbeil goes up towards the convent of St. Maroun Annaya which belongs to the Lebanese Maronite Order, and is situated on a 1200 m altitude. It was built in the XIXth century, and in 1832, the Lebanese Order connected to it the hermitage on the top of the hill at a 1400 m altitude. St. Charbel Makhlouf had the favour to live there until his death on the 24th of December 1898.
Actually, in the convent of St. Maroun, there is a room where the body of the Saint is lying. The pope Paul VI canonized him on October 9th 1977.
His feast day is celebrated on the 18th of July. The large church as well as the squares around the convent are then crowded with all faithful who come to pray and implore the intervention of St. Charbel. Moreover, each day, visitors come to the convent, The number is increased particularly on Sundays.
Convent of St. Joseph at Jrebta – Batroun (The blessed Rafka)
This convent was built in 1897, it belongs to the order of the Lebanese nuns. The Blessed Rafka was one of the six nuns who marked the beginning of the cloistered life in this convent, on the 3rd of November 1897. She lived there until she died on the 23rd of March 1914, confined to her bed by great sufferings.
On the 27th of November 1985, His Holiness the Pope John-Paul II declared the Beatification of Rafka.
The convent of St. Joseph became famous. Visitors come daily from all places. They obtain certainly a grace and a deep conviction that the sufferings borne for the Love of Christ, gain a redeeming power.
convent of the Holy Savior in the Chouf
Situated on a beautiful hill in the heart of the Chouf, at 15 kilometers from the town of Saida, this convent is linked particularly to the Greek-Melkite community. Its founder is the bishop of Saida, Euthyme Saifi. He was the first one to declare the union with the Roman See. In 1711, the first constructions of the convent appeared, the iconostasis built in 1759, with Italian marble. The 7th of November 1828 the Seminary was built.
convent was subject to many ravages, 1777, 1848, 1860. The monks had to
abandon it in 1985. It was recently returned to the monks after the end
of the war. It is now a big restoration site, because it remains the main
convent for all the salvatorians in the world,
In side the large church, there are two tombs, the first is to Patriarch Clément Bahouth’s who resigned in 1859 and the second tomb is to father Bechara Abou Mrad’s, dead in the odour of sanctity on the 22nd of February 1930.
Lady of Harissa
The Harissa Hill is situated at a distance of 25 kilometers from Beirut, and at a 600m altitude in the heart of Kesrwan. On the hillside, there is Bkerké the Patriarchal Maronite see in Lebanon; at the top, the convent of the Paulist Greek Melkite Catholic Fathers; and at a distance of some meters the summer see of the Apostolic Nuntio in Lebanon, and just near there a convent for the Franciscan Fathers; far from there, the convent of Charfeh, the see of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate and on the hill of Bzoummar the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate. It is not surprising then, that the attention was drawn towards the hill, which over looks one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, to set up there a sanctuary vowed to the Virgin, the Queen of Lebanon.
In fact, When the Patriarach Elias Hoyek and Mgr Carlos Duval, the Apostolic Delegate in Lebanon, decided to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Immaculate Conception dogma declared on the 8th of December 1854, they both formed the project of setting up a statue of the Virgin on the hill of Harissa. The statue was made in Lyon; it is of bronze covered with white paint and of 8 meters and a half long. The statue arrived to Beirut in 1906 on board of a big ship. The construction of the sanctuary was finished on the third of May 1908, with the tower-piedestal of 20meters high.
On that day, the virgin was proclamed Sovereign of the mountains and seas, and Queen of Lebanon. It is the most visited sanctuary in Lebanon, and many come walking from far away. The processions to Harissa increase during the month of May, the month of Mary.
Virgin of Mantara – Maghdoucheh
The sanctuary of the Virgin of Mantara is on a very beautiful hill, beside the village of Maghdoucheh which extends far to the sea, it over-looks the plain which leads to Saida. It seems that this location was already chosen before Christ as a watching tower that the pagan priests used in order to see to the security of their Goddess Astarté.
The tradition tells that when Jesus came to Sidon, the Virgin Mary who accompanied him, stopped to wait for him at the top of the hill; She spent the night inside the cave named "Mantara". The King Constantin the Great responded to St. Hélène request and transformed the cave into a sanctuary for the Virgin.
He erected there a tower, at the top of which he put a flame to announce that Saint Hélène his mother discovered the Christ’s Gross. This tower fell down during the earthquake of 550. The king Louis IX erected there a watching tower. The cave was once again discovered accidentally by a shepherd in 1726, the miraculous icon of the Virgin was near the altar. It is of byzantine style and dates back to the VII or to the VIIIth century. Since then, the cave has been transformed into a place of pilgrimage for all the Lebanese confessions. In 1860, the Greek-Melkite Community became the owner, and transformed the cave into a sanctuary worthy of the Virgin in 1880.
At the beginning of the sixties, Mgr Basile Khoury built a beautiful hexagonal chapel and a 28 m high tower on the top of which he erected a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms, a work of the Italian artist Pierrotti. The statue is 8m and a half high.
The Virgin of Mantara is the protectress of the children, that’s why many baptisms are celebrated there.
statue of the Virgin in Zahleh
Fifty years after the inauguration of Harissa sanctuary, Mgr Euthyme Youakim had the idea, in 1958, to set up a sanctuary for the Virgin on a hill over-looking Zahleh and the Bekaa. An agreement was signed with the Italian artist Pierrotti, in 1961, for a Bronze statue, 9 m high. The inauguration of the sanctuary took place on the 9th of September 1968, on a very beautiful hill in Zahleh. The tower is 61 meters high, and the statue of the Virgin, at the top of the tower, is 9 meters high. The tower is served by an elevator which can carry 12 persons at the same time.
Virgin of Beshouat
The sanctuary of the Virgin of Beshouat is a pilgrimage center deep inside the Bekaa. In 1741, deep inside a small cave in the ruins, a byzantine wooden icon was discovered, on which the Holy Virgin was painted. A church was built above the cave, and became a place of pilgrimage.
Kana is situated at 10 km from Tyre. Since 1968, the researches made by Lebanese of different scientific fields, led to arguments based on tradition, toponymy, geography, archeology and especially religious, proving that Kana is the place where the first miracle of Jesus took place. It is indeed Kana of Galilee where Jesus, at the request of his mother the Virgin, transformed the water in wine. The arguments succeeded in convincing some foreign responsible people who came to Lebanon, some ambassadors and renowned writers, that Kana of Lebanon is realy the Kana of Galilee.
Saint – Paul Basilica – Harissa
At the beginning of the fifties of this century, the society of the Paulist Fathers began the construction of a Basilica on the name of St. Paul, the Patron Saint of the Society, just near the head convent at the top of Harissa, and in the Vicinity of the Virgin of Lebanon. This Basilica has not yet been entirely finished. But what has been done until now is a wonder of beauty and a splendor of truth. Seen from out side, it looks like the Basilica Agia Sophia of Constantinople. The inside is fascinating: the big dome, the apses, the big altar and the columns that are joined in half-domes. All the inside reveals a Christian Sublime Theology by the means of the most beautiful mosaics accomplished by mankind at the end of the XXth century.