Harissa – Our Lady of Lebanon

Our Lady of Lebanon بازيليك سيدة لبنان, Harissa, Lebanon



From Monday till Saturday: 7-8-9-10-11-12 a.m. and 4-5-6-9 p.m. Sunday: 7-8-9-10-11:30 -12:30 a.m. and 4-5-6-9 p.m. Every day: A prayer of the rosary at 7.15 p.m. Every Wednesday: Rosary Prayer and Mass with procession at 8.30 p.m.

Other Details

سيدة لبنان




Mount Lebanon

Meaning of “Harissa” The word Harissa comes from the word Haras which means, in Arabic and Hebrew, a sharp blade, a knife, any cutting tool, or also, a sheer edge. And this corresponds to the nature of the hill on which stands the village, named by its inhabitants “Roueiss”. Therefore, some historians believe that the old Semitic word harissa means roueiss in Arabic, a steep-sided high hill.Overlooking the bay of Jounieh, the Sanctuary is built on a 350 hectares piece of land, 650m high from sea level, and 26kms to the north of Beirut, in the Mohafazat of Mount Lebanon. As it neighbors the village of Daroun, it is part of the Kesrwan caza. It is also close to Bkerke, see of the Maronite Patriarchate. It is famous for its greenness, the multitude of its trees, the abundance and purity of its sources. It is the door to Paradise…How it all started On the fiftieth commemoration of the “Immaculate Conception” dogma declared by His Holiness Pope Pius IX in 1854, His Beatitude Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoayek and the Apostolic Nuncio Carlos Duval decided to erect a religious monument that would be a keepsake of this event.According to Father Henri Jalabert sj, Lucien Cattin, Father Superior of the Jesuits in the Middle East at the time, suggested to raise a big statue of the Virgin that could be seen from far and that would illustrate the Honoring of and the attachment of the Lebanese people to Mary.After the Patriarch and the Nuncio had sought advice from bishops, priests, monks and laics, the sanctuary was named “Our Lady of Lebanon”, and the project was launched.Construction After consulting with engineers who were authorities in the field, a place at the top of the Harissa hill called “the rock” was chosen to build the sanctuary, and the implementation phase got close. Committees began to raise funds in order to execute the project. The generosity of the Lebanese people conveyed their love for Mary.After negotiations, Mr. Francis Yaacoub sold the land to the Patriarchate for the symbolic sum of fifty Ottoman Pounds.The laying of the foundation-stone took place in October 1904, but work was interrupted for several reasons; one of them was the fear the land could not carry a monument of that size.In 1907, Patriarch Hoayek and Msgr. Fridiano Giannini, the new Apostolic Nuncio, resumed the work and made some adjustments to the project such as enlarging the west side of the sanctuary.To make sure the construction was carried out appropriately, a deed was signed in 1906 with a contracting company, as the first party and, as the second party, skilled master-artisan Ibrahim Makhlouf (from Ain el Rihaneh). The statue was built in 1907.It is good to keep in mind that Father Chucrallah Khoury, Superior of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries was from the beginning, the Patriarch’s right hand man in the management and the execution of the project. He was elected Father Superior of the Congregation, after the election of Father Youssef Moubarak as Bishop of the Saida Diocese.With the help of the Apostolic Enunciator, and particularly Father Pere, Secretary of the Enunciator, and Cattin, Father Superior of the Jesuits, the Patriarch was able to overcome the financial problem – resulting from the volume and the cost of the project - by sending a letter to the Maronite “Wakfs” and charity organizations, asking them to pay a preset sum of money, to be collected by Father Chucrallah Khoury.Building the Sanctuary and the statue cost approximately 50000 gold French francs, donated by believers; among them was a French lady who wished to remain anonymous and made a contribution of 16000 francs. The land was offered by the Maronite Patriarch and the Nuncio.According to his last wishes, Bishop Duval’s body was transferred from Beirut to Our Lady of Lebanon Sanctuary. On the west wall of the shrine, is placed a commemorative marble plaque on which is engraved in the Latin language the history of the event, in appreciation of Duval’s love to the Virgin and his passion for her sanctuary in Lebanon. Launching To erect such a monument, a faraman (sultan’s decree) stating the approval of Ottoman authorities, ruling then, had to be issued. Mount Lebanon “Moutassaref”, Mouzher Bacha, sent a telegram asking for Istanbul consent and, almost miraculously, received a positive answer only a few hours later.At the beginning of 1908, the shrine and the statue’s pedestal were executed under the supervision of Father Chucrallah Khoury, officially assigned by the Patriarch to take the lead on the project. Shortly after, Our Mother Mary’s statue was built, and inauguration took place on May 3rd, the first Sunday of that month.At 10.00 am, Msgr. Giannini started the inaugural ceremony with prayers and then blessed the sanctuary and the statue, thanking God for an achievement that would nurture and develop real faith. The devoted assembly was informed of His holiness Pope Pius X’s message for the showering of heavenly blessings on all those who had had contributed to the execution of the project, or those who were attending the launching ceremony.Amid the guests, were Lebanese Brigadier Barbar Beik El Khazen, representing Mount Lebanon “Moutassaref” Youssef Franco Bacha, and His Excellency Habib Beik Bitar, “Ca’im-macam” of the Caza of Kesrwan, as well as large crowds of believers and visitors.The ceremony was followed by the holly mass, celebrated by Patriarch Hoayek, bishops, general superiors, representatives of congregations from oriental and western churches and many priests.During his sermon, the Patriarch highlighted the Lebanese people love and devotion to Mary, and asked for her protection and her unfailing intercession. At the end of the mass, he led a solemn procession around the sanctuary, carrying the icon of the Holy Virgin. He declared first Sunday of May as the feast of Our Lady of Lebanon. The Management of the SanctuaryFollowing the inaugural celebrations, as mentioned in Article 4 of the deed registered in Bkerke on January 18th, 1907, Maronite Patriarch and Apostolic Nuncio officially entrusted the management of Our Lady of Lebanon Sanctuary to the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries, through their general Superior, Father Youssef Moubarak, at the Enunciator’s  location in Harissa.It wasn’t too late in time when more lots of land were purchased in order to improve the facilities dedicated to serve the believers and visitors, and gradually, the shrine became what it is today, an international place for worship.Shrine Description An 8 by 8m chapel with a seating capacity of 100 people was built under the statue of Mary, the Mother of God. It was designed by famous French architect, Gio.The wooden statue of Mary Mother of Light (that toured almost all Lebanese cities and villages in 1954) stands next to the square stone altar. On the middle of the tabernacle are engraved a cedar and bunches of grapes. Stained glass windows are decorated with the consecrated wafer’s symbols, grapes and wheat ears.The seven-piece-bronze statue of Our Lady of Lebanon is 8,5m high, with a 5m diameter; it weighs 15 tons and is painted in white, for more splendor and magnificence. It was manufactured in Lyon (France), under the supervision of Mr. Durenne who escorted it to Beirut port at the end of July 1906.The 20m high pedestal of the statue has the shape of a trunk sculpted in a natural stone. The lower diameter measures 64m and the top part, 20m. A 104 steps staircase was built to reach the top of the statue. (A drawing of the statue and its pedestal by famous painter Daoud Corm is kept in the basilica.)Our Lady of Lebanon Basilica  In 1956, a plastic and wooden tent was built on the west side of the shrine’s entrance in order to welcome the increasing number of believers and visitors for masses, especially throughout the month of May.As a result, on the golden jubilee of the shrine, it was decided to build a bigger church, to accommodate the large crowds of believers.On the 31 of May 1970, the foundation stone of the basilica – to be- was laid by His Beatitude Maronite Patriarch Paul-Pierre Meouchy, in presence of Lebanese President then, Charles Helou, and his Prime Minister Rachid Karame, ministers and deputies, Orthodox and Catholic Bishops and numerous believers.From the start, Patriarch Meouchy handed over the management and the execution of the basilica to the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries through their Superior, Father Sassine Zeidan. He was assisted by an executive committee formed towards the end of 1968, following a meeting between Patriarch Meouchy and Father Sassine Zeidan.This committee was comprised Father Sassine Zeidan (president), Lebanese Missionary, Father Youssef Andary, architect Adib Sader (secretary), pharmacist Cesar Chalhoub, engineer Emile Kayssar (Director General of the Ministry of Public Works), Joseph Salhab (Director General of the Ministry of Tourism), architect François Chemaly (President of the Municipality of Daroun-Harissa), and Fouad Boulos (President of Harissa teleferic’s council).This committee worked to insure information, financial, architectural and logistical aspects of the project in order to start building. Architects were asked for detailed drawings and plans. Choice of the Design To choose the best design, Patriarch Meouchy and Nuncio Alfredo Bruniera constituted an arbitration committee composed of the Nuncio himself, Father Sassine Zeidan, representing Patriarch Meouchy, and five eminent architects: Georges Maroun, President the Order of Engineers and Architects, Henri Eddé, former President the Order of Engineers and Architects, Mitri Nammar, Director of the urban planning Department, and two other French architects.After eliminating two of the four projects, and hesitating between choosing either José Husseini’s or Pierre Khoury’s proposals, the committee voted for the last one by four votes against three.Construction Work The construction work went on uninterruptedly, even in the hardest times. Once the leveling of the land was first achieved, the foundations were completed by June 1971, the walls and the esplanade were built, and the rest of the work continued.Engineer Louis Cordahi executed some of the work, but the bigger part was accomplished by engineer Mouin Aoun and his team who – armed with faith and perseverance, and entrusted by Father Paul Najm, General Superior of the Missionaries - were able to built a high ceiling in the shape of a Phoenician boat with 64m long curved beams. To execute that part, engineers had to consult two French companies: one, to supervise the assembly of the scaffold and the other one, to assist in the design and the assembly of the immense glass front façade.  

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Maghdouhe – Our Lady of Awaiting

Basilica of Our Lady of Mantara - بازيليك سيدة المنطرة, Maghdoucheh, Lebanon

مقام سيدة المنطرة العجائبي مغدوشة




Our Lady of Mantara is a Melkite Greek Catholic Marian shrine in Maghdouché, Lebanon, discovered on 8 September 1721 by a young shepherd. The grotto, which according to a legend dates to ancient times, was subsequently cared after by Monsignor Eftemios Saïfi, Melkite Catholic bishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Sidon. The shrine consists of a tower crowned with the statue of the Virgin and Child, a cathedral, a cemetery and a sacred cave believed to be the one where the Virgin Mary rested while she waited for Jesus while he was in Tyre and Sidon. (Women were not allowed in some cities). Since its discovery, it has been steadily visited by families particularly each year on the occasion of the feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.

Ancient era
Many historians agree that the devotion to the Virgin Mary in Lebanon replaced the Phoenician worship of Astarte. Temples and shrines to Astarte were converted to Christian places of worship, honoring the Virgin. This is also true in Maghdouché where within the vicinity of Our Lady of Awaiting are the remains of a shrine to Astarte.

Middle Ages
During the reign of Emperor Constantine, his mother, Saint Helena of Constantinople, requested in 324 the destruction of all pagan temples and idols dedicated to Astarte. The Astarte shrine in Maghdouché was probably destroyed at that time and converted to a place of devotion to the Holy Mother.

Since the early Christian era, the inhabitants of Maghdouché have venerated the cave where the Virgin Mary rested while she waited for her son, Jesus to finish preaching in Sidon. Saint Helena asked the Bishop of Tyre to consecrate a little chapel at the cave in Maghdouché. She sent the people of Maghdouché an icon of the mother and child and some altar furnishings. Historians believe that Saint Helena asked the people to name the chapel, and they named it "Our Lady of Awaiting" because it was there that the holy mother waited for her son.[4] Mantara is derivative of the Semitic root ntr, which means “to wait."

Saint Helena provided funds from the imperial treasury for the maintenance of the chapel. The funding continued for three centuries of Byzantine rule in Phoenicia until Khalid ibn al-Walid defeated Emperor Heraclius at the Battle of the Yarmuk.[4] While the caliph Omar, who became ruler of Jerusalem, was a pious and humble man, sparing Christendom's holiest shrines and being tolerant of his Christian subjects, the Arab rulers of the rest of Byzantium were less tolerant of the Christians, especially in the maritime cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Byblos, and Tripoli.[4] After the majority of the Sidonians converted to Islam to receive promised privileges and immunities, the people of Maghdouché withdrew to higher elevation up Mount Lebanon. The caliphate had recognised the Christians of Mount Lebanon as autonomous communities, paying a fixed tax. Before abandoning their village, they concealed the entrance to the cave of Our Lady of Awaiting with stones, earth and vines. The people left the village through obscure mountain paths to the strongholds of Christian Lebanon. The legend of Our Lady of Awaiting was passed down to the exiled generations of Maghdouché for one thousand years.

The people of Maghdouché did not return to their ancestral home despite the arrival of the Crusaders in Sidon. The Crusaders spent most of the 12th and 13th centuries in the shadow of Maghdouché without ever suspecting the sacred cave's existence even though they built a small fort, called La Franche Garde, within meters of the hidden entrance to the cave.

Modern era
The people of Maghdouché only returned to their ancestral village during the reign of the Druze Prince Fakhreddin II (1572-1635). The prince, who was considered a tolerant and enlightened ruler of his day and age, believed in equality amongst the diverse religious followers of his Lebanon. To demonstrate this equality, he appointed a Maronite Catholic as Prime Minister, a Muslim as Minister of the Interior, a Druze as Army Commander and a Jew as Finance Minister. His reign was a rare example of non-sectarianism, and it soon became the most prosperous principality in the Ottoman Empire.

It was not easy to relocate the sacred cave even though the men of Maghdouché worked for hundreds of years near the grotto, pulling down the stones of the Crusader fort for building material for their new homes. The cave was finally rediscovered on 8 September 1721 by a young shepherd when one of his goats fell in a well-like opening in the porous limestone. Wanting to save his goat, the shepherd made a rope from vine twigs, tied it to a tree, and descended into the hole, but the rope broke and he fell. When his eyes became accustomed to the darkness of the grotto, the boy saw a soft glimmer of a golden object, which turned out to be Saint Helena’s icon of the Mother and Child. The boy climbed up the stone walls and ran to the village to tell his discovery.

Greek Catholic

Smar Jbeil – Fortress (Citadel)

Smar Jbeil Citadel, Smar Jbeil, Lebanon

قلعة سمار جبيل

Smar Jbayl



على تلة مشرفة في البلدة ترتفع قلعة عسكرية حصينة. وتعلو القلعة حوالى 500 متر عن سطح البحر ويعود تاريخ بنائها الى ملوك جبيل الفينيقيين الذين اشتهروا بالقصور والقلاع المنحوتة بالصخر، ثم سكنها ملك بابل “بختنصر”. وثمّة تماثيل رومانيّة بأوشحتها المعروفة تدلّ على أنّ الرومان احتلوها وبنوا فيها هيكلًا بأعمدة ضخمة بقاياها مشتتة في نواح عدة من سمار جبيل، وفي الحائط الجنوبي لكنيستها الأثرية. وقد بنى فيها الرومان أيضًا مسرحًا يدعى الراميّة، وهو مفروش بالإسمنت القديم، كما بنوا معاصر موجودة في الجنوب الغربي من القلعة. في القلعة خندق منحوت في الصخر يُملأ بالمياه لمنع دخول الغزاة، وبرج مراقبة وطاقات لفوانيس.
في التقليد القديم يُروى ان مار لوجيوس وهو شفيع العيون والمعروف لدى السريان بمار نوهرا، قصد بلاد البترون للتبشير، ونال اكليل الشهادة بقطع الرأس ورميه في أحد آبار هذه القلعة بالذات. هذا البئر مازال مقصودًا الى اليوم للتبرك بمائه العجائبي الشافي لأمراض العيون.
كذلك يذكر تقليد آخر ان مار يوحنا مارون قصد القلعـة، يوم تعيينه أسقـفًا على البترون سنة 676، واختارهـا حصـناً له بعـد خراب دير مـار مارون في سوريا. ولمّا أصبـح بطريركـًا سنة 685 نُقل مقـرّه الى كفرحي وبنى فيها ديرًا.
بعد سقوط الامبراطورية البيزنطية، تعاقب على القلعة العرب والصليبيون، وأتى بعدهم المماليك ثم العثمانيون. الحكام اللبنانيون قديماً كان لهم نصيب في هذه القلعة، حيث سكنها الشيخ أبو نادر الخازن الذي ولّاه الأمير فخر الدين على مقدّمي البلاد.

Built by the phonecian kings of Byblos on a hill overlooking the coastline, the castle was used by the Babylonian king Baktensar. Later on in the classical period, the romans built a temple inside of it with a large atrium, nowadays the columns of the atrium are scatered all around the village and in the walls of the historical church. The romans also built a theater, and a winery in the western side of the castle. A watch tower and a protective water trench were added in the late classical period for protection.
According to tradition St Logius the patron saint of eye illness, also known as Nohra in the Syriac world, preached in the lands of Batroun. He was sentenced to death during the Diocletian persecution by beheading in the castle patio. His head was thrown in a well nearby, still visited for its miraculous eye healing waters.
According to another tradition, the first Maronite patriarch St John Maroun, and when he became bishop of Batroun in 676, resided in the castle after the devastation of the monastery of St Maroun on the Orontes in Syria. After he was elected patriarch in 685 he moved again to Kfarhay where he built a new monastery.
After the fall of the Byzantine empire the castle was occupied by the Arabs, the Crusarders, the Mamluks and the Ottomans. During the reign of prine Fakhredyn the Second, the first Christian regent of the land Aby Nader Al khazin took hold of the castle and made it his headquarter.

Jbeil – Saint John Marcus

Monastery of Saint John Marcus Jbeil Lebanese Maronite Order, Byblos, Lebanon

مار يوحنا مرقس - جبيل




Mount Lebanon

A beautiful Romanesque church, Eglise Saint Jean Marc is the cathedral church of Jbail-Byblos. The Church is dedicated to Saint Jean Mark, the patron saint of the town, who is said to have founded the first Christian community of Byblos. The church itself was built in 1115 A.D by the Crusaders, originally as the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. After their departure, earthquakes, invasions and other disasters have repeatedly damaged the structure, and for a few centuries it remained disused. In 1764, Emir Youssef Chehab, of the Druze dynasty that ruled a semi- autonomous Lebanon under the Ottomans, donated the church to L’Ordre Libanais Maronite (Lebanese Maronite Order) which subsequently restored and reopened in 1776 after re-dedicating it to St Jean Marc. British bombardments of Lebanon in 1840 caused further damage, but the church was restored yet again. Eglise Saint Jean Marc continues to serve the Maronite Christian community. One interesting feature in the church is its open- air domed baptistery on the northern side which dates from the original construction in 1115 A.D, The church is situated on Rue de Port, between the port and the archaeological area.