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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Charbel Monastery and Hermitage, Annaya

Annaya, Saint Charbel Monastery

The canonization of a Lebanese monk is undeniably a historic event and a new expression of the ecumenical movement in the Church.

Saint Charbel is the heir to an oriental spiritual heritage rich in its variety and its harmony which has flourished in Lebanon throughout the centuries; he is a true witness to the nobility of hidden virtue and to the triumph of the spirit.

He sums up the various religious traditions - not only Christian but Sunnite, Chiite, Druze and all the other beliefs in that mosaic of faiths which goes to make up the great family of the Lebanon. Each one can find his own features in the face of Saint Charbel.

With one of her sons honored in the highest degree of holiness, Lebanon today is secure in her glory - the glory of people who have endeavored throughout the centuries of history to endure as a stronghold of the values of the spirit.

Throughout their history, the Maronites have always been passionately attached to life in the mountains, however hard and austere it might be. By their efforts and the sweat of their brow, they have transformed rocky soil into fertile arable land and orchards. One such summit can be seen at Annaya in the Jbayl district of Mount Lebanon, a mountain situated 1000 meters above sea level, half way between the Jbayl coastline and the heights of Laqlouq.

In 1367, after the murder of Patriarch Gabriel (Jibrayel) II of Hjoula (1357-1367), the Maronites were scattered, leaving the district to the Shiites. But once again they worked together with the Shiites on a sharecropping basis which enabled them to earn back their property. Among these sharecroppers were two anchorites, Joseph (Yusuf) Abu Ramia and David (Daoud) Issa, the latter being later ordained as Father Peter (Butrus). They took back from the Shiites the locality of Ruwayssat Annaya, the site of the present hermitage, where there were the remains of an ancient place of worship which they restored in 1811 and close to which they built for themselves a habitation. In 1814, during the superiorate of Father General Ignatius (Ghnatios) Bleybel (1811-1832), they left the premises to the Order, so they might share its spiritual benefits, having first obtained the approval of Patriarch John (Yuhanna) Helou (1809-1823), who requested them to dedicate the church they were building to the two Apostles Peter and Paul (Butrus wa Boulos), so it would no longer be called Church of the Transfiguration as at first.

However this land held in mortmain was not enough to support the monks, and the site was not suitable for building a monastery. For this reason the Order chose to have a hermitage there and in 1820 bought other property from the inhabitants. It also built some cells and a small church in the place known as al-Hara, where there was a threshing floor.

In 1826 the Order decided to transfer the present monastery from its former to its present site. Work on the construction of the present monastery church was finished in 1828. Between 1838 and 1841 all the basements were built.

In 1842 disaster struck the monastery when the people of the village of Hjoula attacked it, looted it and set it on fire, killing one of its monks, Brother Alexander (Iskandar) at-Tartjani. As a result, the monks abandoned the place intermittently for fifteen years, until 1860.

Once the monastery had been completed, the hermitage was attached to it where monks outstanding for their goodness and piety decided to spend their lives cut off from the world, among them Father Elisha Kassab, brother of the Venerable Father Naamatallah Kassab al-Hardini, who passed forty-four years there.
The monastery then became a noviciate where seventy-eight monks pronounced their monastic vows, among them Brother Sharbel Makhlouf (Saint Sharbel), who took vows of religion on November 1, 1853, before going to the Monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justina (Qibriyanus wa Yustina) at Kfifan in order to study philosophy and theology and prepare for the priesthood.

After having been ordained priest on July 23, 1859, at the church of the patriarchal seat at Bkerke, Father Sharbel returned to the monastery of Annaya, where he spent sixteen years. On February 15, 1875, he went to the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul (Butrus wa Boulos), having first obtained the approval of his superiors. He spent twenty-three years there, before passing away aged seventy on the eve of Christmas, 1898. His mortal remains were transported to the cemetery of the monastery.

God worked many miracles by his intercession and accorded many graces, and in 1926 the cause for his beatification was introduced at the Holy See in Rome. On December 5, 1965, at the end of Vatican Council II, Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) proclaimed Father Sharbel blessed. On October 9, 1977, he was canonized. In 1974 the new church built for the occasion and dedicated to him was inaugurated.

The Order has continued renovating the monastery, equipping the premises and arranging the surroundings to receive visitors and to respond to their spiritual and other needs. It has arranged a museum showing the liturgical vestments of the saint, the sacred vessels he used and the votive offerings left by sick people who have been cured by his intercession. In order to meet the growing demands of the pilgrims it has constructed a separate building near the monastery called The Oasis to receive visitors wishing to pray or to make a stay close to the tomb of the saint.

On December 20, 1997, the Lebanese Maronite Order inaugurated the first centenary (1898-1998) of the death of its son, Saint Sharbel, with a Holy Mass celebrated by Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Butrus Sfeir (1986-Ö) at Saint Sharbel's Church, Annaya.

Because of the presence of the sepulcher of Saint Sharbel, in recent times the Monastery of Saint Maroun at Annaya, like the other great sanctuaries of the Christian world, has become an important place of pilgrimage visited by thousands of faithful from the country and from all over the globe, who come to pray, to repent and to better accomplish their spiritual duties. The monastery receives letters from all over the world demanding a blessing or the intercession of the Saint of Lebanon.

The Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul

In this open-armed and sacred land of Lebanon, holiness is like oneself. Saints bathed in mystic light appear in every corner of the land and create the atmosphere needed that the elect, the holy, may flourish.

In the tradition of monastic life, each religious house had a retreat two or three kilometers away, an annex formed of one or several cells with a chapel, so that any one of the monks could withdraw there and be alone with God. In Lebanon one may still find these retreats where holy men have withdrawn to pass their lives in meditation and in prayer.

At Mar Koshaya, at Houb, at Tamish, at Annaya and elsewhere, there are still to be found such sacred hermitages to recall the past. At Annaya a large monastery of the Lebanese monks was built, the monastery of Saint Maroun, and a hundred yards away higher up, fifteen minutesí walk away, are six narrow little cells clinging to a mall church that predates the main monastery. From here on this versant summit at an altitude of four thousand feet one has a view on all four sides, stretching to the sea, to Torzaya, to Tamish and to Elmat. In 1798 the plot of land was bought from Shiites by Yusuf Abi Ramia and Daoud Moussa Khalifeh, and there they built the chapel and the hermitage in question so they might leave the world and devote themselves to prayer and mortification. The chapel was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Our Lord but in 1812 the Patriarch changed the name to dedicate the place to Saints Peter and Paul. Daoud Moussa studied theology and was ordained priest and in due course several youths joined the two holy men to share their way of life.

After the construction of the Mar Maroun Monastery between 1838 and 1841, all the little group in the hermitage asked to be integrated in the Maronite Order and the hermitage was annexed to the monastery. The first hermit to occupy a cell in what was now a hermitage was Father Elysius Hardini, brother of Saint Naamatallah el-Hardini.

The second was the monk Yuhanna el-Akoury, the third was Yuakim el-Zouki, and the fourth Father Lebaos el-Rawati. The fifth was the great saint of Lebanon, Saint Sharbel Makhlouf.

The hermits prayed and worked, sowing some difficult terraces, digging and planting from April till September and the rest of the time preparing the soil. Snow, rain, storms and bitter cold dominated the site. In one of the rooms blackened by the smoke of winter fires one sees thrown together the tools of the hermitsí labor. The hermitís own room was narrow and low-ceilinged, while his bed was a horsehair mat on the ground, with a wooden log as a pillow. One may see crude and time-worn holy pictures hung on the walls. Outside is a wide-spreading oak and rocks worn smooth by time and tempest sticking out from among the trees.

The sixth hermit was Father Macarios of Meshmesh, the seventh Father Antonios el-Ghalouni, the eighth Father Antonios of Hsarat and the ninth the monk Butros el-Meshmeshani.

The hermits lived in total poverty. Several performed miracles while still alive and passed through ecstatic states of communion with Christ their Savior.

-The Text in Arabic-

- Saint Charbel Monastery: >> View Movie << (2001-03-01)
- Saint Charbel Monastery 2: >> View Movie << (2014-12-15)
- Sepulcher of Saint Sharbel: >> View Movie << (2010-02-15)
- Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul: >> View Movie << (2010-02-15)
- Saint Charbel Cathedral: >> View Movie << (2014-12-15)



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