- Caza: Jbail
- Distance from Beirut: 64-70 km
- Altitude: 800-1250 m
- Access: Jbail-Amshit-El Monsef-Gharzouz-Bejjeh-Mayfouk
Or Jbail-Amshit-Al Madfoun-Rachana-Smar Jbeil-Kfifane-Douk-Mayfouk
The village of Mayfouk is located in a lovely mountainous area with green landscapes, oak, pine and cedars woods. The name is derived from the Syriac language, meaning “water from top” i.e “MAY FAWQA”. One of the oldest areas of the town is Elij, where an old church bearing the same name was built over the ruins of a pagan temple dedicated to the Sun God,”Eel”. (God of the depth)
- Saydet Elij Monastery (Our Lady of Elij):
The 3rd Patriarchal seat from 1120 to 1440 AD. This beautiful, small church dates to 1121 AD. There’s a tradition that the Monastery of Our Lady of Elij took the place of one of the train stations of the Roman road from Baalbak and the banks of Al Assi River to the North coast of Phoenicia. The apostles used this road during their trips between Antakya and the beaches of Palestine, and turning the place into a Christian one is attributed to them. (The apostles and students of St. Lucas).
The name of Elij is derived from the word “Eel”, from the Aramaic language, and it means “God of soft valley”. But from the Greek, it is derived from the word “Ellios” meaning “Goddess of the Sun”.
According to a Syriac inscription on the church wall (1277 AD.): “In the name of the eternally living God, in the year 1588 of the Greek era, this Jacobi temple was built for the Mother of God who prays for us, by the bishops Mark and John, in 1588 of the Greek era.” A cross was also engraved with a Syriac state “In You we conquer our enemy and in your name, we tread our haters”. There’s Syriac writing on the monastery’s wall: “In the name of the living God, in 1746 A.D, the two monk- brothers Amoun & Ming. It was established by four patriarches Botros, Ermia, Yaacoub, and Youhanna in 1121 A.D”.
The church is known for its ”Elij” icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ: while restoring it in 1985, Sisters of karlmalite-Harissa, researchers had found 10 different layers of paint, and the oldest one backed to the 10th century (every layer is over 100 year).
This monastery is the fourth oldest belonging to the Maronites. It is one of the most ancient Episcopal seats in Lebanon. It was built on the ruins of a pagan temple as mentioned before. It had witnessed all types of persecution and martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ, in addition to the history and faith, in what it spared miracles and glorification of Virgin Mary. It is not an edifice, but it looks like a grotto, built in the valley amidst old trees, between the mountains and the rebellious course of two rivers, of soil-colored dabachi stones which cannot easily be seen under the walnut trees… What is left of the monastery today are two floors. The church occupies the greatest part of the ground floor while the first floor contains a small loft and a wide hall. The patriarch lived on the upper floor, in the small loft, which can be reached either by an internal flight of stairs within the church, or by external stone stairs. There is also a secret access from the patriarch’s room to another hidden room or to the outside. A small window was opened in the patriarch’s room facing the Holy Sacrament and the icon of Our Lady of Elij over the main altar. Next to the church on the first floor, there are two rectangular rooms with low curved ceilings, open to each other by a small path on the west side, inside the separating wall.
The church is distinguished by its “Bema” (the throne in Greek), with stairs leading to it on the western side. The bema is a high tribune in the church where the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, is celebrated, where the Patriarch sit with bishops. It is the only church in Lebanon that still keeping a bema. There are a number of basements (narrow tunnels) inside the walls used to hide and run during persecution, invasion and war. There is a library containing souvenirs: religious relics, photos, books, documentary, local products.
Father Chadi Bechara: (71/000 965) – Mrs. Layla Al Hashash: (09/ 765 063)
- Saydet Mayfouk Monastery (Our lady of Mayfouk):
1746 AD, historical location of the icon of the Virgin Mary (1100 AD).
The Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouk (Deir Saydet Mayfouk) was the second seat of the Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon. The ancient stone church has been refurbished, and it is believed to be one of the oldest monasteries in Lebanon, possibly dating back to 850 AD. Around 1851, the revered Saint Charbel spent a year here. Renovated in stages, the monastery building is notable for its arcades, colonnades, and barrel vaulting. There is an inscription on the monastery wall in Karshouni (an old language that is a mixture of Arabic and Syriac), saying: “He who was a servant for the Virgin will never know damnation.” Within the monastery is a small chapel of St. Elij, where a valuable ancient icon of St. Elij, probably dating to the 10th century, is kept. The icon is displayed against a concave glass background with small light bulbs. In 1922, the school of Saydet Mayfouk was founded in the monastery, still functioning till present, as well as an agricultural college in the past. There is also a museum for traditional crafts and religious articles and relics. Contact Father Michel Lyan (09/765 505 – 09/765 506 – 03/939 292).
- Mar Sarkis wa Bakhos Hermitage (Sts. Sergius and Bacchus):
1865 A.D. It was inhabited by 5 hermits. This small, deserted building is surrounded by old oak trees and has an arch at its altar. It is still used, but only on special occasions. A walk to the top of the hill leads to a small cedar forest where a big cross stands on the hill. Locals walk to this forest twice a year, to celebrate the Way of the Cross.
- “Al Qattara” Mar Challita Monastery, ( Artemus):
The Lebanese Maronite Order began building this monastery in 1847 AD on the property of the monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouk, and finished it in 1861. In 1870, the “monastery was designed to be a school for teaching foreign languages. Of the most prominent teacher, Mar Nehmtallah Al Hardini. When the situation changed and peace reigned, the Order restored and renovated the monastery so that it might carry on its mission like the other monasteries and be a sanctuary dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, the second house dedicated to Mary of Nazareth in collaboration with the International Center of Mary of Nazareth in the world (12 countries around the world). Contact Father Simon Abboud (03/757822) or Father Antoine Khalife (09/765 401/2- 03/713 712)
- Mar Charbel Hermitage-ALHsar (St. Charbel):
It is a fortified cave from the medieval period. It was a defense location for protecting the inhabitants during invasion. St. Charbel used to meditate and pray during his 1st year in Saydet Mayfouk school in 1851. Nowadays the cave is decorated with statues of St. Charbel and other saints, illuminated by candles that reflect its light on the statues.
- Saydet El Wardiyeh Church (Our Lady of the Rosary, Kfarchally area):
The key with Mr. Maurice Elias (03/966 232)
- Mar Saba Church (St. Sabbas):
This small abandoned church surrounded by oak trees is located on the way to Mar Geryes monastery. It has a beautiful view. It was renovated with the efforts of Father Youssef Matta. A mass is celebrated on the feast day of St. Saba. The key is in the Monastery of Saydet Mayfouk, Father Michel Lyan (09/765 505 – 03/939 292).
- Mar Geryes Monastery (St. Georges):
This monastery was abandoned but is recently restored thanks to the efforts of Father Joseph Daccache. The convent is not inhabited by monks but is visited for special occasions and spiritual retreats. The key is in the Monastery of Saydet Mayfouk, Father Michel Lyan (09/765 505 – 03/939 292).
- Mart Moura Church (St. Maure):
St. Moura Church is 200 years old (built in 1800AD). Constructed of yellow stones, the church has an iron door and a rusty bell fixed on a cement base on the top of the building. It is a refuge for spiritual retreats, meditations and seclusion in the heart of the amazing nature.
- Mar Elias Chapel (St. Elie):
It is a small chapel at the end of the village, (private ownership)
- Mar Youhanna Church
- Obeid Cave: At the end of the village (the old place for living).
- Al Bayt El Loubnani el Tourathi (The Lebanese traditional house):
Contact Mrs. Therese Khalifé (03/862 119).
- Museum of Traditional Tools: Hayat Salameh (09/765 555)
- The Old Mills and presses
Local cultivation: Grapes, raspberries, apricots, figs, apples, nuts, vegetables (parsley, tomato,onion…).
Local products: Honey, homemade jams, traditional Lebanese drink arak, wine, rose and other flower water.
“Kibarouna Festivals” and other activities: Activities organized by the municipality of Mayfouk and Qattara (09/765 500).
Walking trails: Baldati Association: Environmental, Cultural and Rural activities, Lebanon Trails project including Jbeil trails and summer camping. www.baldati.com (04/922 999- 09/765 666- 03/666 565)
Honey Festival: A honey festival was organized in 2005 and locals hope to launch this event according to fruitful seasons. Contact Mr. George Al Hajj (03/454 445).
Spiritual activities: Contact Father Chadi Bchara (71/000 965)
The Virgin Mary’s celebration (The Assumption): A procession is organized from the convent of Saydet Mayfouk to the church of Saydet Elij on the evening of August 14.
A Holy walk to the hill of the Cross is organized twice a year: on the 13th of September, for the feast of the Holy Cross, and on Great Friday, for the Way of the Cross.
A Holy walk and a Mass, on the evening of St. Charbel feast, are organized every year, from Saydet Mayfouk to the cave of St. Charbel,
Restaurant Nabeh el Joz: Mr.Michel Hachach (70/672 335 – 09/765 766), traditional Lebanese meals, playground for kids.
Restaurant Qasr el Aasal: Mr. Charbel Yazbek: (03/ 626 623 – 09/ 765 456), traditional Lebanese meals, playground for kids.
Al Saada Bakery: Mrs. Rafqa Naoum: (71/288 145- 09/765 078)
Snack & Mini Market Mayfouk: Mr. Eddy Sleiman (09/765 767- 70/499 664)
Istirahat Al Mahbasseh: Mr. Pierre Botros Khalifa: (76/508 214- 09/765 667), Lebanese meals.
Al Jabal Bakery: Mr.Michel Sleiman Hachach (09/765 347- 71/266 797), chawarma- pastries
Nabeh Hreich restaurant: (Lebanese meals), Mr. Georges Sleiman (71/133 166- 09/765 055)
Picnic rest places: Mar Saba square, Mar Geryes square, Mar Challita’s fountain, Contact: Miss Mireille Hanna (70/847 896)
Guesthouse: Mrs. Layla Al Hashash: (09/ 765 063)
- Local Guides:
Mrs. Layla Hashash (09/ 765 063); (French); information spot; souvenir shop (religious items, books, pamphlets, written information)
Ms. Mireille Hanna : (70/ 847 896)
Ms. Marie-Ange Hanna: (76/ 583 828)
- Useful Information:
Gas station: Mrs. Najwa Noun: (71/404 150)
Dispensary (09/765 500)
Mayfouk Governmental Hospital (under construction)