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Panoramic Views > North > Bcharreh > Saint Antoine Qozhaya

Saint Antoine Qozhaya

I was just seven or eight years old in 1943-1944, when I was sitting astride the back of a donkey that my mother had hired to take us far, very far, into the valley. A taxi had put us down in a small village. All well and good. From there on it was a four-legged beast that was to take us down a rocky and tortuous way, passing terraced gardens one after another. It was only later that I learnt that we were in the Holy Valley and that our destination on the road was a monastery, one named Saint Anthony Qozhaya. A great Cross dominated enormous boulders, plunging cliffs and a churning torrent.

This monastery was well integrated into the site; one might say that it had been carved out of the rock. For a long time it had been the shelter, the inaccessible refuge, for the Christians of an earlier age. Caves in this region abound. The church itself is hewn in the rock, and its three belfries cling close to the cliff. Inside the church there are several paintings, the Apostles, bearded Fathers of the Church, the Holy Virgin and hermits, in an art which is naive, simple and not without charm.

A well-guarded treasury is also to be found there, with some rare items which escaped the looting of the monastery by Ottoman soldiers in July, 1866. There is a crosier inlaid with mother-of-pearl, copes and chasubles threaded with gold, mainly gifts of the kings of France, and even a dish engraved with the words, “In thanksgiving to the monastery of Qozhaya in the year 1100.”

A few paces away from the church is Saint Anthony’s Grotto, marking the earliest beginning of Qozhaya. There victims of insanity used to spend the night, attached with heavy chains, and in the morning were found to be cured. One may also see there the first printing press of the whole Middle East and Arab world, dating from the seventeenth century, one which supplied the Maronites with liturgical books for more than two hundred years. This monastery was founded by disciples of Saint Anthony the Great, the Father of Monks, and it was here that monks began to take vows. The monastery has harboured many holy hermits, even down to the present day. In the church there is one altar dedicated to Saint Anthony and another dedicated to the Holy Virgin.

Now roads have been cut through and the monastery can be reached over an asphalted route. It has become a centre of pilgrimage, prayer and tourism.

Joseph Matar

- Saint Antoine Qozhaya: >> View Movie << (2004-01-01)
- Saint Antoine Qozhaya: >> View Movie << (2013-01-15)
- Saint Antoine Qozhaya: - Interior of Church: >> View Movie << (2013-01-15)
- Saint Antoine Qozhaya: - Interior of Grotto>> View Movie << (2013-01-15)
 

 


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