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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Kesserwan > Convent Our Lady of the Assumption

A concise History of the Convent of Our Lady of the Assumption

From Damascus, with goodness, came
To build for our Lady of the Assumption a shrine
I say, recording its history, and fame
Bless you Abraham, your work is divine

These words are inscribed above the convent's church door in Bkaatouta to commemorate the name of this great benefactor and to record the history of this unique convent, which was built in 1767.

The convent lies between Baskinta and Bkaatouta, resting in a spot endowed with the most beautiful climate, scenery and population in Lebanon. This village of natural silk, rises 1300 m above sea-level. It is surrouded by a chain of high mountains' crowned with snow in winter. This mountain overlooks vast regions of artistic convass of colourful flowers spread over a green tapestry gradually changing into gardens of golden velvety red apples, peaches, and vignards with grapes of pearls. This panorama of green is fenced by a forest of pine and oak trees.

The convent overlooks the city of Beirut and the Mediterranean sea. Its area is known for its dry healthy climate in summer and for its cold climate in winter, when it becomes a heaven for ski lovers.

The solitude and solemnity that surround it make of it an ideal location for those who wish to spend time thinking, meditating, relaxing and enjoying peace. The area is sought by visitors of all ages. Writers and poets alike seek it in search of peaceful and fruitful retreat. It is the home of the famous Lebanese writer Michael Nouhaime.

The convent was built by Ibrahim Kheir Al-Mokdsy, a Damascan citizen, known for his generosity, great qualities, piety and for his love for God and the church. He was a good friend of the Basilian Choueirite Order. He used his own wealth to build the convent.

As he was visiting his Excellency the bishop Ignas Sarrouf at St Simon convent in Wady Al-karm Valley, he was so much fascinated by the beauty of the region that he wished to build a convent for secluded nuns who would spend their time in prayers, retreats and meditation in the protection of Our Lady of the Assumption.

The bishop blessed him so he bought the land known as the Rock of Mourad Al-Khazen or the "Kishk rock", known for its bright and light colours and for its scenic location.

The construction started in 1760. The Choueirite Order requested the Reverend Father Ibrahim Al-Mouallem, famous for construction and architectural art, to prepare the plans and supervise the construction. He was assisted by the Reverend Father John Al-Halaby.

Once built, the convent turned into a master piece with the beauty of its yellow-petro stone, the magestic, symmetric and grandiose arcades. In some places, two or three arcades are built on top of each other, something unusual and very rare in Lebanon.

The construction was completed in 1767. The convent was occupied by twenty worshipping sisters, who came from all parts of Lebanon such as the convent of the Annonciation, Zouk, from St Joseph, Ain Al-Rummaneh. When one of the Chiite girls, who used to frequently visit a convent in the region of Al-Hermel was baptised, her family persecuted the nuns and monks in that region. She was sent to Rome while the nuns took refuge in Bkaatouta. In Rome she became a nun performing miracles while still alive.

His Excellency the Reverend Father General Monsignor Jacob Sajaty, with the efforts of the Reverend General superior of the Basilien Order, helped over forty nuns come from Syria, Lebanon, even Baghdad to join the convent. All consecrated their lives and time for prayer, meditation and artcraft, earning their living by following the example of Our Lord Jesus, His Mother Mary and foster Father St Joseph.

The convent illuminated that beautiful natural spot by its prayer, silent work and spirit of the Gospel. It helped the poor, offered hospitality to foreigners and provided councel to the lost. This was the spirit of the Gospel and St Basil's rules, wich the nuns followed, practiced and fulfilled.

As for the benefactor, he built special living quarters in the convent for himself and his wife and took care of all the convent's needs and properties. Unfortunately, four years later, he died in April 1773, at the age of seventy. His funeral service was celebrated by his beatitude the Patriarch Kyrio Dahan, Monsignor Ignace Sarrouf and the Reverend General superior Jacob Sajaty. They were assisted by a great number of monks, priests and nuns. His wife, shortly after, joined the nuns and took her sacred vowels before her death in 1782.

In 1942 the nun's cluster was removed, and the nuns devoted their lives to missionary and service works as required by the Church. Ever since, the convent opened its doors for those who wished to visit and pray. A free school was built to serve the orphans, the needy, and those with social problems; it also served the children of the region. Today this school is dedicated to serve and raise needy girls from all over Lebanon.

The residence of the benefactor was transformed into a hospitality house. Presently, the convent is seeking partners and men of goodwill to erect on its land a home for the elderly as well as other projects to serve the general welfare of the region and its people.

The great importance and fame of the convent is not merely based on its history, on the beauty of its stone and its social, cultural services, it is rather based on the permanent miracle that took place 250 years ago.

As the convent was fully constructed and the second floor was occupied by the clustered nuns, drinking water was not reaching the second floor because the water spring in the convent's ground was much below the second floor. The engineers tried in vain as no technology was available at the time. They told the nuns to buy big jars, fill them daily with water and use them when needed. But the nuns believed that their trust and faith in God, the Holy Mother, and Divine Providence will do miracles. They rejected the engineer's suggestions. They spent an entire month in special prayers and sacrifices asking the Holy Mother, the convent's patron for help. By the end of the month, they carried, in solemn procession of prayers all over the convent, a beautiful and very old Icon of our Lady of the Assumption, reported to be an original copy of the one painted by St Luc, the Evangelist. Then they stopped at the same place indicated previously where the water would not flow. They placed the Icon of Mary in the same spot and prayed with love and full faith. Miraculously, the water began to flow, and continues to do so today.

Several miracles were reported by the faithfuls, who drunk the water. The engineers decided then to distribute the water to the nunís rooms in the same floor, but were unable even today. The water flows only under the Icon of Mary.

This ancient convent remained standing for all these years although it was exposed to the eroding factors of nature as well as to the catastrophic events of the Lebanese civil war. The Order wishes to acknowledge the Lebanese government for placing the convent on the list of touristic sites, as well as for assisting the nuns to refurbish a small part of the convent before 1975.

By 1990, the Order took upon itself, assisted by competent engineers, to remodel the entire convent save the cave. It brought the convent to its original design and structure. It took five years and substancial funds to complete the task.

Today the convent acts as a source of light, hope, help and love. The sisters will continue to offer their daily prayers and devotion as special incense ascending before the throne of our Creator on behalf of Lebanon, its people and leaders in particular, and the whole of humanity. They continue to pray for God's mercy, for his special gifts and for his heavenly blessings. -The Text in Arabic-

- Convent of Our Lady of the Assumption: >> View Movie << (2009-01-01)



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