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Panoramic Views > Bekaa > El Hermel > Saint Marounís Monastery

Saint Marounís Monastery - North-East Beqaa

In this holy mountain, monasteries and convents are scattered like stars across the valleys. The most inaccessible are on summits that are difficult to reach, which explains why the Maronites were able to oppose and resist the many barbarous aggressors who came to spread chaos and terror. The monasteries were reserved to the monks while there were convents where resided the nuns.

In Arabic, the tern Deir has sometimes been used for a small church with a room attached that is dedicated to some saint, and sometimes even for a grotto or small shelter put together with stones.

This is the case of the Monastery of Saint Maroun, where the refuge of the monks is carved out of the rock along a cliff situated nearly five hundred feet from the spring called the Blue, Ain Zarqa, source of the river Orontes, El-Assi. The series of caves is three hundred feet above the river and is composed of three levels joined by a stairway hewn out of the rock. There are three altars and small cells where Saint Maroun and other hermit monks are popularly said to have resided.

These cells cut out of the cliff face were the retread of the first disciples of Saint Maroun in the fourth century A.D.. It is claimed that the great Maroun himself lived and died here and was buried in this monastery.

However, this is not authentic. It is thought that the monastery goes back to the time of the Romans but the dates and actual origins cannot be verified. The persecutions of Marounís disciples by the Mamelukes were commonplace. The caves fell into neglectful hands and were used as shelters for herds of goats. At present the site is the property of the Ministry of Power and Hydraulic Resources and has never been tidies up or restored, despite the national importance of what it stands for. However, the Maronite Patriarchate has taken charge of the area and it is now protected by a barrier of recent construction.

Qasr el-Blunat, the Palace of the Builders, is three hundred feet up and one hundred feet below the caves just mentioned. It was used as a refuge during the quarrels between different Christian religious sects. It has also been called Magahret er Raheb, the Grotto of the Monk. It has even been known as Qasr el-Banat, Palace of Young Girls, for a group of brave nuns fleeing persecution and martyrdom in Syria, sought refuge in this impregnable retreat.

For their constructors, monks, nuns, local inhabitants, these dwellings provided a refuge and a defense, acting as a military and spiritual fortress and a place of tranquility for troubled souls. It was there that the Maronites were able to oppose and hold out against the immense Ottoman sultanate as extensive as Europe.

To come to this region of the North-East Beqaa overlooking the turbulent waters of the Orontes and displaying scenery of fairy beauty, and here to pray to Saint Maroun, is a true spiritual pilgrimage. This great saint of Lebanon performed miracles when alive and was respected, admired, and honored. Favors through his intercession are asked by people coming from the four quarters of the world. They seek the blessing of his holy presence.

We know that in fact Saint Maroun lived as a hermit on a mountain near Antioch at Koroch, with only the sky and the stars above his head, but his name has traveled beyond all frontiers. The date of his birth is unknown but what is certain is that he died in 410 A.D.. Now there are more than ten million Maronites in the world, one million in Lebanon and some twelve million elsewhere.

Maronite means Lebanese, open-mindedness, a loving heart, great humanitarianism, generosity and goodness, freedom and justice, respect for human values, understanding and exchange, hospitality and self-sacrifice, with respect for human rights.

Joseph Matar
Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Saint Marounís Monastery: >> View Movie << (2017-07-15)



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