• Caza: Jbail
  • Distance from Beirut: 52-57 km
  • Altitude: 400-550 m
  • Access: Jbail-Amchit-Hesrayel-Gharzouz- Chikhane-Maad- Or Jbail-ElMonsef-Gharzouz-Bakhaaz-Chikhane-Maad
General and historic information

Set on the northeast hills of Jbail (Byblos), Maad has a beautiful, panoramic view of the coastline. Maad’s name derives from the Phoenician words, “the meeting place”. Today, the town is distinguished by its old churches and vestiges from the Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader eras. St. Rafqa lived 7 years in Maad (1864-1871).

It is hard to imagine that it was once the rally point for thousands of warriors who met there to divide the spoils of war after victories over the Mamluks. At that time, village was a stronghold (castle) with 2 towers.”Tallet Al Marzeh” (Al Marzeh hill) is one of the archaeological sites from the North West side of the village, overlooking Tripoli and Beirut. Sarcophagi carved in the rocks were also discovered. Some historians mentioned that Prince Hanna “Prince of Jbail”, built beside it defense towers, and rebuilt the old ones, and the location till today is known as “The Towers”. Also in “AlShibaa”, from the Syriac language meaning Elisabeth, sarcophagi were found beside an old ruined church, believed to be St. Elisabeth church. Concerning sites that have been removed obvious landmarks with time, it is important to mention it, to tell how old the village is. As well as natural sites and live attractions.

Monuments and sites visits
  • Mar Charbel Parish Church* (St Charbeel the martyr):

It is the oldest church in Maad, it is closed and visitors have to ask for the key at Mrs. Ghalieh Issa’s house. It was built in the 12th century on the foothills above Byblos, with a fine view of the coast. It is the highest hill in Maad after the main hill, and from the north side, it overlooks the Valley of Harba, which was the most important center for monastic life. The church was dedicated to St. Charbel Al Rahawi or Charbeel “the martyr”, and not for the famous Lebanese St. Charbel. Considered one of the first Christians martyrs, he was a priest coming from the city of Al Raha in Turkey who converted to Christianity with his sister Barabia and was then martyred during the reign of Roman Emperor Decius (236-250), with great and long suffering. He was beheaded by sword and followed in martyrdom by his sister on September 5. In Syriac, charb is “news” and eel is “God”, so his name means “the news of God”.  The original church, which may date to the 6th century, was built on the foundations of a Roman temple, as attested by objects found two meters underground like presses and stone tiles. Many architectural elements and columns originally belonging to the temple are inside the church or scattered around the site. The church is decorated with Byzantine-style frescos from the pre-Crusader and Crusader eras. Note the two layers of the frescoes representing the Dormition (death) of the Virgin. The Crusader tomb in the church probably belongs to a Frankish lady, Anne Boulanger, who died in 1243.  Ernest Renan pointed out the frescos of medieval church. He discovered Greek inscriptions dating to the year 8 BC in the original temple, sent it to Paris, and found that the temple was built by Emperor Septimus Severus between 198 and 211 AD, before his son Marcus Aurelius became Caesar. The key is with Mrs. Ghalyeh Issa (09/ 750 139).

Basilica: central cave + 2 aisles

The columns are unmatched with the temple colonnade section, with 6 reused capitals: 4 ionic, 1 Doric, and 1 reused column base. The others are in the entrance area with Greek inscriptions.

On the right:

An altar for small sacrifices (Roman period), a column base (Roman period), a capital with local face relief (late Roman or early Christian period), a cippe or funeral stella, a stone with an inscription in Greek of Septimus Severus and an inscription of Caracalla, more capitals (late Roman), a mosaic (late Roman or early Christian period), and an altar with a dedication, in Greek, to the master of the universe.

On the left:

A column base, the tomb of Ann Boulanger, a Frankish lady who died in 1243, having remained after the departure of the crusaders, capitals, doric capitals, a column base, and a mosaic (4th century Byzantine).

Frescos :

  • Frescos in the church’s apse:

There are seven persons in that painting (one in the middle and three on each side) carrying books with auras over their heads. The person in the middle is surrounded by a red frame that separates him from the other persons. What distinguishes it is that he has a crown with a yellow aura, wearing ecclesiastical clothes, with a white beard, carrying a book in his left hand and blessing with his right hand. This way of blessing belongs to the Byzantine tradition. The little finger means in Greek “I” which means “Jesus”, the thumb crossing the ring finger forming an “X” while the middle and the index make an “N” which means “the victor”. And so the blessing became: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Victor”. Opinions are conflicted about the identity of the person in the middle, and it is considered one of most mysterious frescos in Lebanon. Possibilities vary from one researcher to another, to be St. John-Maroun or St. Qobrianos (Cyprian), or maybe St. Charbel the martyr or Melchisedek the priest. And it might be Jesus in the middle surrounded by the two columns of the church, Peter and Paul, and the four evangelists. The first person to Jesus’ right, St. Peter, has his name written in Syriac. The church depicts him with two keys in his hand, one for binding and the other for loosing. The stick with a cross is the shepherd’s staff, the symbol for Christianity entrusted to Peter, who is the Christ’s representative on earth, which is why he is on his right, the closest to him of all. The person on the left of the Christ is Paul the apostle, with mature features, blessing with his right hand, and holding the book of his letters in the left, one of the most important references for Christians. The two men to Peter’s right side are the evangelists Matthew and John, and the two others to Paul’s left are the evangelists Luke and Mark.

 

  • The frescos of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary:

 In the southeastern room, the Virgin Mary laying on her deathbed, her son Jesus in the middle of the icon without the regular light aura, surrounded by two deacons and next to him, in heaven, two angels. One on his right and another on his left, ready to transfer his mother’s soul to his hands like a swaddled baby. The apostles surround Mary’s body in a half circle: Peter is the closest to her head, Paul kneeling at her feet, and John the beloved disciple tending to her heart. On the top row of the west side, we see Philip, “the non-bearded young man”, with Jacob by his side. Under him we see Luke, depicted with short hair, and by his side an unknown apostle wiping away his tears. The ornate bishop with formal church dress, not sharing the apostles’ grief, is not precisely defined. On the other side, we see Thomas and Bartholomew, one not identified, and of the other, all that is left is part of his aureole. In the bottom of the painting, we see the Jewish Jevanios, whom St. Michael prevents from dropping the Virgin’s body from the loading. We notice the yellow color on his clothes, the color of money, that were given by the Jews to Judas, to deliver Jesus to them, and behind him, we see the painting’s donor kneeling respectfully and praying.

 

The North wall: It has a small hole with on both sides a drawing for two persons: a saint with a cross in her hand, and a bishop, a saint with a crown, appears on his knees with two hands supplicating to him. Under the hole, between the saints, is a bearded man, the painting’s donor, kneeling, opening his hands for offerings. Above the hole, the drawings are covered by deposits, and the only one remaining the drawing of an angel with white clothes, holding in one hand a shaft, and in the other a ball with the Christ drawn on. Relics of St. Charbel the martyr were kept in this hole.

 

  • El Qeddiseh Rafqa Church:

This small, yellow stone church has an arched ceiling and an arched altar, and small arched doors and windows. It is believed to be one of Lebanon’s oldest churches.

This church was originally St. Georges Church, but knowing that St. Rafqa used to pray here, locals changed the name of the church and built a new church for St Georges. The church is always open.

 

In 1832:

Saint Rafqa or Boutourssieh (Pierrette) Mrad Saber El Choboq was born in Himlaya, one of the Maronite villages of Northern Metn. At the tender age of seven Rafqa lost her mother.

 

In 1853:                      

When she was 21 years old, she decided to go to the convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya. There, she joined the Mariamettes. After her postulancy, Rafqa received the novice’s robe and made her vows in Ghazir where she stayed until 1860, taking charge of kitchen service and teaching catechism to children deprived of education. In 1860, Rafqa was sent to Deir El Qamar where she witnessed the bloody conflicts occurring in Lebanon during that period. After 2 years in Deir El Qamar, Rafqa spent a year in Byblos (Jbail) where she taught young girls. She was transferred later to Maad village, where she spent seven years establishing a new school for girls with another nun.

 

In 1871:

While living in Maad, she faced a crisis in her congregation. She went in to St. Georges’ church asking Jesus to help her take the right decision, and she heard a voice calling “you’ll be a nun”. She prayed, and saw in her dream St. George, St. Simon, and St. Anthony the Great, who told her to “join the Lebanese Maronite Order”. She moved from Maad to the Maronite Monastery of St. Simon El Qarn in Ayto, North Lebanon, where she received the novice’s robe on July 12th, 1871 and chose the name of “Sister Rafqa”, after her mother.

 

On August 25th, 1872:

she made her solemn vows and spent 26 years in the monastery of St. Simon. In 1885, she asked Jesus to permit her to experience some of the sufferings He endured during his Passion. Her prayer was immediately granted and on the same night, an unbearable pain swept through her. An American doctor, resident in Jbail, ordered an immediate surgery to which St. Rafqa refused anesthesia. In the course of the surgery, the doctor uprooted her right eye by mistake. Instead of complaining, Rafqa told him: “For Christ’s Passion, God bless your hands and may God pay you back”. Within a short time, the disease struck the left eye.

 

In 1897:

When the Lebanese Maronite Order decided to build the monastery of St. Joseph al Dahr in Jrabta – Batroun, six nuns were sent to the new monastery, and Rafqa was among them.

 

In 1899:

She lost the sight in her left eye and became paralyzed. She was emaciated, her movements were uncoordinated and her body was arid and dry. She spent the last seven years of her life bedridden, always lying on her right side. She could not move. According to some doctors, Rafqa suffered from osteo-articular tuberculosis. Although she spent 29 years of her life in pain and suffering, St. Rafqa kept smiling and thanking God for His grace of letting her participate in His Passion.

 

On the 23rd of March 1914:

Supplied with the Holy Sacrament, she called upon Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, and then rested in peace. She was buried in the monastery’s cemetery. A splendid light appeared on her grave for two consecutive nights.

 

The case related to her beatification was submitted to the Vatican on December 23, 1925 and the canonical investigation of her life began on May 16th, 1926.

Pope John Paul II declared her a Venerable on February 11th, 1982, a Beatified on November 17th, 1985, a role model in the adoration of the Eucharist for the Jubilee Year 2000, and a Saint for the whole Church on June 10th, 2001.

 

  • Mar Geryes Church (St. Georges):

A small modern church built after the conversion of the old one. The church is closed; the visitors have to ask for the keys from the neighbors.

Special celebrations take place here on the 23rd of April and the 3rd of November.

 

  • Mar Abda Monastery (St. Abdon):

This monastery belongs to the Lebanese Maronite Order founded in 1787. The current church was built in 1797 and was dedicated to St. Abdon. In 1878, it was a school and a headquarter for 27 monks. In 1896, 56 monks were appointed priests for the church’s altar. Stone arches constitute the exterior of the monastery. The door is made of cedar wood and reflects a traditional Lebanese style. The exterior yard is surrounded by stone arches, and a beautiful rose garden serves as the centerpiece of the yard. The monastery includes a reception area and an old church, which has a stone floor and a stone arched ceiling. Brother Nehmtallah Nehme AlMaadi (1881-1954), lived in this monastery; he was apprenticed in the beginning under the supervision of the artist Habib Srour, and continued his education in painting and drawing in Belgium. Then he visited Italy and France, for the same reason, and came back to Lebanon where he settled in Maad after Word War 1. Its most prominent, altars inscription and churches domes in the city of Jbail and surroundings. Only few remains in the monastery of Maad, the statue of St. Abdon, a ledge of plaster inside the church and the external dome. Beside the convent there’s also a well and a round pool with a water fountain in the middle. There’s one photo for St. Rafqa with her sisters the nuns, in the monastery salon, and two basins used as a dark room for photos. There was also a library with valuable manuscripts, enriched with modern books. Nowadays it’s taking a main place in the salon.

The monastery was restored in 1838 and renovated in 1956. In 1997, a religious education center for youth was founded.

This Saint is very popular in Lebanon; he is represented most of the time blessing children even if his story never mentions this episode. Different stories at different periods mention him (09/750 132).

  • Old village school (Mar Antonios Al Badweni-St. Anthony school):

It has a special position in the memory of the village, because Saint Rafqa taught the girls here for seven years, from 1864 to 1871, and she stopped when she was inspired to join Lebanese Order. Today the school is the endowment of St. Anthony where Mr. Joseph Saleh Doumit and Mr. youssef Gerges Doumit are in charge. To celebrate the 150 jubilee of serving the town, an ongoing exhibition was organized in the hall where she taught, in collaboration with the artist Joseph Nassar, entitled “Rafqa the Teacher”, to meet the present history, and bring back the image of St. Rafqa as teacher, who was part of Maad’s society 150 years ago. The visitor can see an exhibition of “Maad’s memory”, a collection of black and white photos of the town’s past generations. There is also a public dispensary sponsored by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Mrs. Olga Doumit (03/102 456- 09/750 620), and Mrs. Micheline Srour.

 

  • Mar Abda El Horsh Church (St Abdon of El Horsh):

This ruined church is located between Maad and Chmout and stands on the land of Mar Abda Monastery (Lebanese Maronite Order). This convent was built in the top of a Roman site.

 

  • El Qeddiseh Elizabeth Church (St. Elizabeth): a Byzantine church in ruins.

 

  • Mar Youssef Monastery and school (St Joseph):

The nuns bought this land from St. Aabdon’s monastery and built a school on it in 1984. Two years later, a Latin monastery and a church for St. Joseph were built.

 

  • Residence of Tony Hanna (Famous Lebanese singer):

Snail farm and nice gardens. 03/ 630 150

 

  • Saleh Doumit El Khoury House:

An old, traditionally Lebanese house with frescoes. It is the house of Sister Ursula Doumit, who founded the monastery of Jrabta. Contact Mrs. Naouma Hajj: 09/750 063

Local products and agriculture

Local cultures: Olives, almonds, tobacco, flowers, figs, grapes

Local products: Honey, olives and related products (olives, oil, soap), homemade almond cookies.

Rural and local activities

Walking trails:

Contact Ghalboun Hiking Group: Mr. Tony Chahine (71/720 160) and Mr. Chady Rizk (71/475 393)

Mar Charbeel Feast: September 5th (a Mass, a traditional dinner and an amazing evening in Maad’s club are celebrated) – Mr. Joseph Doumit: (03/ 190 422).

Eid Al Saydeh (The Assumption feast of Our Lady): August 14, (an evening bonfire is made in Maad’s park), Mr. Elias Srour: (70/ 332 230).

El Qeddiseh Rafqa feast: A traditional dinner is organized in the park during the month of August, Mr. Elias Srour: (70/ 332 230).

A walk toward the flower nursery: Mr. Pierre Elias Nassar: (03/ 469 068).

Horse riding: the horse riding club in Chmout village next to Maad:

Mr. George Badran: (03/ 328 480).

Food and beverages

Snack « Al Dayaa » (Pizza and manakish): 09/ 750 142

Lodgings

Beit Al Kahen (the priest house- la maison du pretre): contains rooms: singles,

double, triples and quadruples. Contact Father Toufic Bou Hadir: (09/750 370)

 

St. Anthony’s endowment: for public services, (social, healthy and cultural services)

Mrs. Olga Doumit: (03/ 102 456- 09/750 620), Mr. Joseph Doumit (03/795 456).

Maad Park: A picnic and camping site, it has around 2000 oak and laurel trees, (playground): Mr. Elias Srour (70/ 332 230).

Local guides

Mrs. Rita Daher: 03/929 408

Mrs. Renee Habib:  (09/ 750 142); an information point, snack and mini-market “Al Dayaa

Mrs. Ghalyeh Issa:  (09/ 750 139); local guide for St. Charbel church.

Mrs. Naouma Hajj:  (09/ 750 063); speaks Spanish

Useful information

Social Affairs dispensary: Mrs. Olga Doumit: (03/ 102 456- 09/750 620)

Gas Station: 09/750 148