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Panoramic Views > North > Bcharreh > Bkaa Kafra

Village of Bkaa Kafra

The name is of Syriac origin and means the plain, stretch of land or plateau. At an altitude of between 1600 and 1800 meters, it is the highest village in Lebanon. It resembles no other, perched above the clouds and overlooking the valley of Kadisha, Valley of the Saints. This collection of houses dates back to the time of the Muqaddim, the Governors, and now after nine centuries it still keeps a traditional Christian appearance, for everything in the village is ancient, its buildings, its shops and its alleyways. The European institution Mémoire des maisons has adopted this typical little old township.

The place is unique and has received a favor from on high. It is the birthplace of the holy monk and hermit Sharbel Makhlouf, a model of sanctity who shed his light over the whole twentieth century. The anchorite was a saint for Lebanon and for the whole world, with his miracles and with the legends and stories that surround him and the fascination he exerted on people.

It is in the sub-prefecture or caza of Bsharre in North Lebanon and 102 km from Beirut. From the coast one has to continue climbing up and up in order to reach this Eden-like fortress. Here there is prayer and an odor of incense that embalms the air. Here is religious tourism in the true meaning of the word. As soon as one reaches the village square one has to get out of one’s car and continue the journey on foot along a celestial road. We begin with the venerable church of Saint Houshab (Usapius), more than seven hundred years old.

With the churches of Our Lady and of Saint Saba, there is a thousand-year-old monastery named after Saint Usapius, to which is attached the village school where Saint Sharbel received his early instruction.

One very beautiful two-storeyed, vaulted church is the parish church where St. Sharbel was baptized. Surrounded by the houses of its faithful, it contains a baptistry and an icon of the Virgin. One can see the house where on May 8th 1828 Joseph, later the monk Sharbel, was born, one that is at least five hundred years old.

When in 1950 Sharbel, later to be canonized saint, began to be known for his miracles, his family house attracted the attention of the Maronite Lebanese Monks, who decided to restore it as part of the heritage. It was repaired and adapted to receive thousands of visitors daily, being now cared for by some welcoming nuns.

The Grotto of St. Sharbel is the property of his family; it was there that the young Sharbel made his hermitage, where he stayed alone to pray to God and to the Holy Virgin, lighting candles on an improvised altar. Lights are said to appear in this grotto and we are told that when some workmen engaged in its restoration wanted water to slake their thirst suddenly a spring came up from the rock, one that still exists, so many believers and sick people come here to ask the saint for a blessing and graces.

One should also note Mar Saba Church with the village square and the St. Sharbel Square as well.

The site and its surroundings are most agreeable, and there is a so-called bridge where there are several springs of water and caves in the mountainside, some of which run very deep.

Several religious feast-days are celebrated during the course of each year, including the week-long celebration of Saint Sharbel on the third Sunday of July. On May 8th the birth of Saint Sharbel is commemorated and on August 15 the Dormition of Our Lady, with great pomp. Saint Houshab (Usapius) is celebrated on October 5th and Saint Saba on December 5th.

In Sharbel we have a saint who is the expression not only of his village but also of all the Maronite community, as a light who guides souls drawn by love, mysticism and holiness.

- Bkaa Kafra: >> View Movie << (2009-03-01)

 

 


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