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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Kesserwan > Bzommar

The Armenian Monastery of Bzommar

On the north-east side of Ghosta there is a summit overlooking this township with a name redolent of divinity and glory, and its hotel, restaurants and cafés. If one turns right as one approaches, one comes to a great monastery, that of the Armenian Catholics. When Bzommar is mentioned, it is of the monastery that one immediately thinks, for it has an international reputation as a center of religious, cultural and commercial importance, drawing many visitors. It is about fifteen miles from the coastal town of Jounieh and about twenty from the capital Beirut.

The origin of the name Bzommar is Syriac and Hebrew and means a player of the flute or of cymbals, and imitates the sound of the instruments.

The monastery dominates the heart of Kesserouan and is reminiscent of the medieval abbeys of Europe. One can see it from afar rising out of the rich verdure of the surrounding woodland with its dominating red-tiled roofs and belfries. It draws the eye and intrigues the spirit
This monastery is the cradle of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate and its historic seat. Here are formed missionaries and apostles who spread the Catholic faith and bear the torch of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

It was on August 27th, 1749, that Abraham Ardzivian expressed the wish for the monastery to be named as that of the Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary.

In September, 1749 the hill destined to become the site of the monastery was acquired by the Armenians thanks to Maronite Patriarch Simaan and the Khazen family. The purchase price was nine hundred pounds, paid half in kind and half in prayers and Masses. Building began in 1749 and in 1750 a few rooms became available for occupation. 1751 saw the construction of cells, a a hall, and a stairway leading to the future church and the excavation of a large cistern to collect rainwater. The work progressed as plans continued to be drawn up. There were extensions and the construction of a second floor reflecting the resolve to create a beautiful House of the Lord. Prelates and monks moved in and a rule was drawn up to link those in residence forming future missionaries and new vocations with those in the missions preaching the Catholic faith and exercising the priestly ministry.

In 1940 the members of the Congregation built a chapel as a shrine for the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Sorrows. This image measures twenty-two inches by nineteen. The artist is unknown, but the work is of great perfection and beauty, an artistic marvel, given to Abraham Ardzinian after his decease. Our Lady of Bzommar is certainly miraculous and is known as the defender of lost causes. There are also several chapels and altars dedicated to various beatified priests and martyrs.

The monastery includes a building dedicated to Armenian culture with a spiritual and cultural center comprising a museum, reading- and exhibition-rooms, archives, documents and photographs. There are private collections and treasures of the national heritage, with two thousand manuscripts and nine hundred ancient books. The library contains many thousands of precious works, many of them catalogued and published.

The monastery museum gives a general view of eastern profane and religious art, particularly Armenian. There are souvenirs of Emir Bashir, who whenever he traveled entrusted all his possessions and fortune to the monastery. On the monastery lands there are well tended vines which give an excellent and famous wine; visitors taste it and buy it. All the year round the monastery warmly receives groups of tourists, students, researchers, scouts and faithful come as pilgrims. There is a church dedicated to the Glorious Assumption of the Virgin Mary with a vaulted roof and a tower with appropriate ornamentation. There are often holiday youth camps for which an area has been laid out where people may relax and restore their feeling of well-being. By the chance of history, Bkerki the seat of the Maronite Patriarch, Our Lady of Lebanon at Harissa, the Syrian Catholic monastery, the Kreimist Monastery of the Holy Savior, the Papal Nunciature and other religious establishments are all to be found within ten minutes of one of the most picturesque sites in Lebanon!

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

- Monastery of Bzommar: >> View Movie << (2013-06-15)


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