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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Kesserwan > Al Aazra

Al Aazra - The Virgin

In the mountains of Lebanon there are many villages which bear the holy names of saints and of these I have visited many.

There is the village of Gabriel (Gebrayel) thirty-five kilometers north of Tripoli which bears the name of the archangel of the Annunciation; that of the Virgin (Al-Aazra), the Virgin Mary; that of the Mother of God (Umm er-Rabb); the Valley of Qadisha (the Holy) with its famous caves occupied by hermits; the House of Job (Beit Ayoub), and Paradise (Janneh). And how many names of villages are made up with Mar (Holy) and Deir (Monastery)! The list is certainly very long.

On the slopes of the hills overlooking the sanctuary of Harissa, a little to the North, in Ftouh Kesrouan, there is a small village named Aazra. Did the village get its name from the monastery of the same name? Or might it be that the name is Aramaic, derived from Ezr, meaning the support, the column, or even meaning a flock of sheep or goats, or a tree of the forest, the Ezr?

When speaking of Aazra it is of the monastery that one thinks first, one dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. The village itself may be reached by a number of routes, all leading up to the Ftouh heights. Its houses stand at an altitude of rather over 2,500 feet at a distance of twenty-five miles from Beirut.

The village is a fine vantage-point that gives a superb view of the sea, the coast including Byblos, and all this most picturesque region. The houses are somewhat scattered, forming an agglomeration around the church dedicated to the Holy Virgin.

At Aazra one feels surrounded by Nature in all its beauty, amidst a forest of evergreen oaks and other trees growing wild. Terraces have been cut out of the mountainside to allow the cultivation of vineyards, olive groves, and orchards of apple and other fruit trees.

The infrastructure of the village is very modern, with the means of communication in constant use. Large numbers of the faithful come as pilgrims to the monastery to pray, to find spiritual peace, to fulfill vows, and simply to relax.

A great deal of activity goes on at the monastery. There is a school, lectures, exhibitions, concerts, conferences, prayers and social activities. The Superior is known for his action all around. Originally built in 1854, the monastery has been restored and modernized several times and monks distinguished for their sanctity have resided there.

A century-old oak tree stands as a living testimony to the history of the monastery, impressive by reason of its massive and wide-spreading branches. How many holy monks have knelt to pray in its shade and how many nostalgic memories it hides of past events, how many tears and how many smiles its branches have witnessed!

William MATAR

- Al Aazra - Monastery Sts. Peter and Paul 1
: >> View Movie << (2013-03-15)
- Al Aazra - Monastery Sts. Peter and Paul 2: >> View Movie << (2013-03-15)


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