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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Kesserwan > Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral - Cathedral of the Missionaries of St. Paul - Harissa

Who are the missionaries of St. Paul?

The Society of St. Paul was founded in 1903 by Mgr. Germanos Mu'aqqad.

.To foster the faith and spiritual life of Christians in the Middle East and in countries where they have emigrated.
. To strive for Christian unity by research and by discussion.
. To bring about brotherly dialogue between Christians and Muslim.

First and foremost, the most specific forms of apostolic labour, namely preaching and publishing.
Membership: Missionary priests and coadjutor brothers.

In order to be able to pray, to draw on their inner life and to reflect, these men of action need a retreat which is calm and conducive to meditation.

Therefore the founder chose Harissa, near Our Lady of Lebanon, as a place with an atmosphere favouring study and prayer for unity supported by interior union with God.

It only remained to erect a sanctuary whose authentic style and artistic perfection would create a fraternal climate of prayer.

Efforts were made in this direction and towards the year 1945 an Armenian architect by the name of Mardiros Altonian, a specialist in Byzantine architecture, drew up a project for a church at Harissa that was full of promise.

Mr. Dimitrios Constantinidés, one of the great Greek specialists in iconography, studied the plan and fixed the iconographic details. The Pierrotti Studio took charge of elaborating the studies in colour and the decorative designs for the parts in marble and mosaic, with the collaboration of the workshops of Favret Mosaics.

The estimated cost was enormous, but the desire of the faithful to see a beautiful and sumptuous church rise up on such an chanting hilltop overcame all obstacles.

Steps on the way to completion:
. Laying of the foundation stone, 22/11/1947.
.Completion of the general structure, 1968.
.Placing of the high altar its ciborium, 1980.
.Placing of the first mosaic, 1980.
.Inauguration and consecration of the cathedral, 25/7/1998.

The main Apse (Surface: 450m2)

The purpose behind the construction of the cathedral was to further ecumenical dialogue and Christian unity, this is why an effort was made to present side by side the principal representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches against the background of the cultures of East and West.

Saints John of Damascus, Ephrem the Syriac, Gregory of Armenia and Methodius decorate the pylons on the right and left sides.

Between are the great patriarchs and bishops who founded the five patriarchates, namely Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

The centre and the upper part of the main apse covered by mosaics of the Last Supper and Our Mother, who conceived the word and so became "more vast than the heavens" (Platyra), represented as Virgo Orans.

The main Dome (Height: 45 m; surface: 280m2)

Christ, the Almighty, is represented in the very centre of this dome as the keystone which strengthens, consolidates and upholds the whole edifice.

The High Altar

The high altar is held up on five columns; four represents the Four Evangelists, symbolized by a bull, a lion, an eagle and a man, and the fifth represents the Kalamos, it means the pen, with which they write the Gospels.

The ciborium, eight meters high, represents heaven.

The Resurrection or Descent into Hell (surface: 113 m2)

When, according to Christian tradition, Christ descended into hell, he broke all the bonds and took Adam by the hand, together with Eve and all the Fathers of the Old Testament, the Prophets and all those awaiting deliverance, proclaiming, his resurrection from among the dead.

The Ascension (Surface: 113m2)

By his Ascension, Christ rose to heaven, so becoming closer to each one of us, closer than we are to ourselves.

Pentecost (Surface: 113 m2)

This mosaic represents the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, who surround the Virgin Mary. It is this same Spirit which is given in Confirmation, when the priest anoints the newly baptized, repeating "The seal of the Holy Spirit".

As for the flame above the head of each apostle, this signifies the gifts of the Holy Spirit giving life to the weak human being and making of him a witness in the Church. It gives new force and courage in the service of the Church, and the Church in turn continues by the Holy Spirit to illuminate and to unify the Whole universe.

The mosaic of the Assumption (Surface 66 m2) and The Nativity of the mother of God

This represents the great Christian hope. The Church gathers round the bed of the dying just as the Apostles gathered around Mary when she died, so that they might celebrate her Assumption. Christ holds the pure soul of Mary in his arms as he will gather up every pure soul.
On the east side there is a leaden cylinder containing the document reporting the ceremony of the inauguration and consecration of the cathedral on 25/7/1998, with the signatures of the religious and civil authorities and various benefactors present.

Veronica's Veil (Surface: 5,5m2)

According to tradition, a woman named Veronica accompanied Jesus on the Way of Sorrows, the Via Dolorosa. She used her veil to wipe his tortured face, with the result that it bore the imprint of his features. For this reason the icon is called "The Icon not made by the hand of man".

The Elevation of the Holy Cross (Surface: 16m2)

This represents the victory that the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius gained over the Persians in the year 638, after which he brought back the Holy Cross, which the Persians had looted, in triumph back to Jerusalem. Patriarch Zacharius raised the Cross on high and with it blessed the people.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy (Feast celebrated on the 1st Sunday of Lent) (Surface: 16m2)

This mosaic also has a historical reference, as the yearly exposition of the icons for the veneration of the faithful recalls the ferocious hundred-year-long struggle against the iconoclasts, the breakers of icons. In the Byzantine rite, the icon is a kind of catechism that teaches and preserves the true faith among the people.

The Iconostasis (Icon Screen) (Height:4m; Width: 12 m)

Arrangement of the icons (To the left):
- The Mother of God
- St. Paul
- The Archangel Michael
- St. Germanos

Arrangement of the icons (To the right):
- Christ
- John the Baptist
- The Archangel Gabriel
- St. Anthony the Great

This is a screen which divides off the Holy of Holies, It bears icons representing Christ, the Holy Virgin, the Last Supper, the Evangelists, the Apostles and those saints who spread the glad tidings or gave witness by the sacrifice of their lives.

Saints Peter and Paul (Superficie: 24m2)

Both stand erect as faithful guardians before the Church of which they and the other Apostles are the foundation stones, and over which they keep vigilant watch.

General Plan and Dimensions of the Church:

1) Main entrance
2) Narthex
3) Royal Doors
4) Central nave
5) Right-hand aisle
6) Left-hand aisle
7) Holy of Holies
8) Diakonikon
9) Altar of the offerings
10) Patriarchal throne
11) Peristyle

Length: 48 m. - Width: 24 m. - Height: 48 m. - Diameter of the dome: 12 m. - Height of belfry: 52 m.

- Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral: >> View Movie << (2012-01-15)



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