With 18 religious sects, Lebanon is rich in religious sites, of many eras, which are dotted across its map.
Its rich fabric of churches, saints, mosques, religious sites and ruins, makes Lebanon the ideal place for those seeking the history of faith. Be it a visit to the Shrine of Syeda Khawla, the daughter of Islam’s Imam Hussein, who accompanied him during the tragedy of Karbala or to Dahr El Ahmar, situated in the Rashaya district, where there is a shrine to Sitt Sarah, the niece of one of the authors of the Druze Epistles of Wisdom, Baha’u d-DÏn as-SamuqÏ. She is remembered for being a great peacemaker. Or even to the recently restored Maghen Abraham Synagogue, located in the former Jewish district of Wadi Abu Jamil in Beirut, which was abandoned after Israeli shelling destroyed it during the Lebanese Civil War.
Of the many religious tours, we have selected a walking trail and a day’s visit that between them combine the sites of one of the country’s major religions: Christianity.
A walking tour of Ehden’s churches
The municipality of Ehden, a picturesque village, in the north of Lebanon, along with Beyond Beirut, an NGO, whose mission is to encourage the development of experiential tourism outside Beirut, as a means of sustainable economic development, have organized a three-hour tour of area religious sites.
This itinerary begins at Al Midan, Ehden’s historic souk, set in the iconic town center and characterized by traditional Lebanese architecture and includes cafés, pastry shops and restaurants.
The next scheduled stop is at the Mar Mema (Saint Mamas) church, the oldest Maronite church in Lebanon and the Levant, built in 749 A.D. The asymmetrical architecture of the nave is quite remarkable. It is believed that the reason for this irregular construction was due to a shortage of stones from the Hellenistic temple of Ehden, which supplied the building of the church. It is known for hosting ancient inscriptions and writings in Greek and Syriac languages. The church was restored in 1974 A.D.
“Mar Yaacoub is on the ruins of an Ethiopian church built by refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland”.
Your next visit is the Mar Yaacoub church (Saint Jacob’s monastery of the Abyssinians), reachable by taking the “Dawalib” road, passing the Town Hall and through the bypass. Mar Yaacoub stands as a symbol of the large Maronite community in the area.
This monastery dates back the 13th century A.D., inhabited by Abyssinian monks in 1470 A.D. With its enclosure taught the scholarly patriarch Stephan Douaihy. Inhabited by the French hermit François de Chasteuil during the 17th century. It was also the seat of the former bishopric of Ehden. It was built in 1885 on the ruins of an Ethiopian church built by refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland.
After which the convent of Mar Kibrianos (Saint Cyprianus) awaits you with its altar made out of recycled wall sections. Your next stop is the Mar Moura’s church and monastery (Saint Maur), built in 1339 A.D., which was deserted and damaged many times but restored, every time. It witnessed the founding of the Maronite Lebanese Monastic Order, in 1695 A.D. It was also the seat of the former bishopric of Ehden.
Before reaching the neighboring Mar Gerges Cathedral (Saint Georges) that was inaugurated in the year 1880, you will pass by Saydet el Hara (Our Miraculous Lady of the Quarter) built in 1512 A.D. considered as a miraculous church. It hosts an old historic artistic photo of our Lady, it is said I was presented as a gift from the Patriarch Stephan Douaihy. The church was restored many times, the latest was in 1983 and has old cemeteries of Ehden. The 13th century Mar Youhanna church (Saint John), near Saydet El Hara, has impressive vaults that are characteristic of the construction features of the time.
A break at the Al Midan souk for a well-deserved meal concludes your tour.
Visiting Ehden soon? Here are 10 things you can do in Ehden.
Get a guide
The Syndicate Guides in Lebanon can provide the number of a guide to lead you in your travels. Contact the president, Elissar Baalbaki, on +961 3 686816.
HOLY LEBANON LEBANON’S FIRST RELIGIOUS TOURISM APP
Holy Lebanon is a travel e-guide promoting religious-based tourism and supporting the sustainable development of local communities across the country. The guide lists thousands of religious attractions, rituals and events, and details of service providers. Embrace Lebanon’s religious diversity and take advantage of this practical and comprehensive tool by downloading the free application on the AppStore or Googleplay.
Featured photo: L’Orient Le Jour
Photos: Hasna Frangieh