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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Amchit

Amchit (Amsheet) - Assaad Bey Lahoud Palace

Before this veritable flood of building and unplanned urbanism, old Amsheet, the “Hill of Sands”, four hundred feet above sea level, stood out in graceful beauty on a promontory facing the sea, dominating the coastal plain that swept in a wide arc between the river Nahr ed-Djej and the valley of Beeshta. Amsheet is visible from afar, with its palm trees and the red tiles of the Saint Michael Hospice, which was the first hospital in Lebanon. Etymologically, the name Amsheet is derived from the Syriac Oomo sheeto, which means the Tribe of Sheet, third son of Adam. However there are some who say that the name comes from the Aramaic Aamaash, which means to plunge, for the town stands over the sea. Enjoying picturesque beauty, a mild climate and the charm of very ancient buildings unique in the region, Amsheet has also been given the name Al-Arouss, the Beautiful Bride. As well as all the ancient remains, including those of Phoenician and Roman temples, one finds here no less than twenty-four churches and chapels. Some of these, like the Saint George and Saint Sophia churches, were built with stones from the old pagan sanctuaries. As for Mar Zakhia (Saint Nicholas) this was built in the fourth century and later the Maronite Patriarch Jeremiah of Amsheet lived in a hermitage in its basement before being elected to the patriarchate of Antioch in 1199.

The eminent historian Ernest Renan stayed in Amsheet for the first time in 1860 with his wife Cornélie and his sister Henriette. Henriette Renan died in the town and lies in a the private sepulcher of her hosts, the Zakhia family, in front of the Church of Our Lady, near therefore to the church of the village she loved so much.

There is a school of the Marist Brothers and other cultural centers which have given the country writers, intellectuals, poets, churchmen and doctors. The better-off inhabitants of the town have acquired much land in neighboring villages and along the coast.

The town has several priories and convents, the residence of the “Moutran” or bishop of the district, St. Michael’s Hospital and a number of banks ensuring all the modern amenities. It used to be the town of certain “Beys”, bearers of a Turkish title of distinction.

To the north-east one may perceive the residence or “palace” of Assaad Bey Lahoud, which attracts the attention of all who pass. It is of Greco-Byzantine-Arab architecture inspired by the summer residence of the Ottoman sultan at Yeldez.

It was the administrator Assaad Bey who chose this structure when he was member of the Council of Mount Lebanon and ambassador to the Council of the Sublime Porte towards the end of the nineteenth century. The building of this palace took seven years. Two architects were called on for its construction, one French and the other Italian. The master craftsmen, stone masons, were from the Assouf family of Khonshara. In a large rock they hewed out a reservoir, a “well”, which can contain 1,200 cubic meters of water, as many metric tons. The Byzantine style of the windows, openings and “bulls-eyes” (small round windows near the ceilings) was considered by the old Greeks to bring good fortune.

The rose windows formed of twelve semi-circles, according to the number of months in a year, are of Greco-Roman conception. The main entry is also in the form of trefoil. The base of the structure, known as the Lion Door, is formed of two massive stones inscribed in Greek. Arab motifs run down the high windows, recalling those to be seen in mosques.

The rooms are duplex, large halls following the old conception. The walls of the palace are weathered by time. Begun in 1882, it gives an impression of antiquity, even of a house practically abandoned, although its inhabitants are still alive and well, generous, welcoming and hospitable. While there are dozens of other houses with roots deeper in the history of Amsheet that invite a visit, the Lahoud Palace stands out as a real museum in harmony with its fairylike environment, attracting us, impressing us and urging us to approach.

Joseph Matar - Translation from the French: K.J. Mortimer

- Assaad Bey Lahoud Palace - Exterior: >> View Movie << (2011-10-15)
- Assaad Bey Lahoud Palace - Interior: >> View Movie << (2011-10-15)

- See as well Bassam Lahoud House



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