• Casa: Batroun
  • Distance from Beirut: 61 km
  • Altitude: 400
  • Access: Madfoun-SmarJbeil-Jran-Abdelli-Jrabta-Sghar Or El Monsef-Gharzouz-Maad-Ain Kfaa- Sghar
General and historical information

This is a small village in the middle of the Batroun region, on the border with Jbeil casa. It seems it was inhabited since the Crusaders were here, judging by the remains of a Crusaders’ church. The name comes from a Syriac phrase meaning “caves overlooking the sea”. It also means “the lock”, since it is on the road between Jbail and Batroun. Another possible meaning is “jewelry city”, since it once had a gold market.

Monuments and sites to visit

The keys for all churches are with Mr. George Antoun (03/650 604)

  • El Qeddiseh Sophia and her martyred daughters (Imane, Rajaa, Mahaba):

This parish church is from the Crusader era and was renovated in the 18th century. It is composed of two vaulted aisles, separated by three Roman aqueducts. The left aisle is named after Saint Sophia (whose feast is on September 17), and the right one after Saint Estephan (St. Steven). On the south wall are two tombstones, one inscribed in Arabic and the other in Karchuni.

  • Al Qatteen Convent- Saydet El Bzaz-El Dorr (Our Lady of the Breast Shrine): Dated back to the 6th century, it is carved into the rocks, where there are caves and remains of rooms in the pockets of the sheer cliff. It was destroyed in 1405, leaving only the altar’s apse, some vaults, a rock basin and a room built from rocks standing on top of the rocks, which no one has reached since the destruction of the monastery; in local parlance, it is “the Boss’s room”. It was highly ranked since 50 monks lived there. Its floor and path are of natural rocks, and the church is a big cave. Many documents mention that Al Qatteen monastery was composed of several layers, made of cedarwood imported from the mountains of Jaj. Sometimes after the country was invaded in 1405, the convent was burned and the monks were hanged in an oak grove still called “Sar AlMachnaka” “gallows-land”. All this was because of a rumor that the monks had found treasure nearby and kept it a secret from the people of the region. Only three monks survived. From the inside, this monastery-cave includes on its eastern extremity a bi-apsed shrine dedicated to “Our Lady of the Breasts”, women in need of children and milk still visit the shrine of the Virgin especially to make vows and ask for blessings. Many believe that Our Lady acquired this nomenclature from breast-like stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the grotto. Its feast is celebrated on the evening of September 7, the eve of the Virgin’s birthday.

  

                 Mar Asya Church in Wata Sfarta:

Built on the remains of an old temple, it occurs in documents as “a great convent where St. Simon Al Aamoudi received his education.” Monks lived there since the days of Mar Youhanna (St. John). It contains 200 rooms or lofts and was open for everyone interested in learning, whence the name Wata Sfarta, “The land of the writers and books”. The church celebrates her feast on July 27.

 

  • Saydet Shwayt Church (Our Lady of Shwayt):

Shwayt is the name of the place, and indicates a flat or smooth land. It was built on the remains of a church named “Saydet Al Bokaa”, “Our Lady of Spots”, its feast day on August 15 (the Assumption).

 

  • Mar Bichay Church:

Also known as Saint Michael’s church among the locals. Built at the beginning of the 18th  century on the remains of a church destroyed in 1200, it is now itself almost in ruins.

 

  • Mar Richa Church:

A small, private chapel for the Dergham family, and for the Baz family after them. It has a painting of St. Richa by Khatchadorian since 1885.

 

  • Sheer wa Ain Mar Youhanna Wadi Harba (Promontory and spring of St. John in the heart of the Valley of Harba) :

Named so after the first Maronite Patriarch Mar Youhanna Maroun, who, according to local tradition, would sit and pray here after moving his residence from SmarJbeil to Kfarhay

 

  • Al Aalliya (The Attic, next to St. Sophia church):

Built on the remains of a citadel named after King Al Asmar, the son of the king of Jbeil. In the past, Sghar was the only crossing for caravans coming from Kesrwan and Jbeil and heading for the markets of the north in Douma and Bcharre. The exchange of merchandise took place in “the Attic”, an old building where the family of Mr. Antoun Gerges Chahine still maintains it. Contact Mr. Pierre Chahine (79/144 206).

Local agriculture and products

Local agricultures: olives, almonds, tobacco, carob.

Poultry farming

Local activities
  • Saydet Al Qatteen feast (Our Lady):

September 7, a Mass is celebrated where homemade refreshments are served.

Mr. Georges Antoun from the endowment committee (03/650 604)

  • El Qeddiseh Sophia feast day:

September 17: A Mass is celebrated on the feast’s evening, followed by a traditional dinner. Mr. Georges Antoun from the endowment committee (03/650 604)

  • A visit to the oil press: Nahi Antoun: (70/ 588 442)
  • BIOLAND organic farm:

Organic agriculture, poultry and cow farm, healthy Lebanese restaurant, park and playground for kids: Mr. Henry Bou Obeid : (03/580 225); www.bioland-lb.com; Fb:Bioland Lebanon

  • Walking trails:

Contact Mr. Saiid Baz (03/270 013)

  • Sghar – Ain Farayya – Ain Kfaa – Ghbeleen – Maad : (3 hours)
  • Sghar – Ain Farayya – Saydet Chwayt – Mar Yohanna – St. Joseph Convent – Jrabta: (4 hours).
  • Sghar – St. Joseph Convent Jrabta
Food and beverages

Saj Nehmtallah : (06/530 502)

BIOLAND restaurant : (03/580 225)

Camping sites
  • Saydet Shwayt square: ask permission from Mr. Saiid Baz: (03/270 013)
  • Saydet Al Qatteen square: ask permission from, Mr. Georges Antoun, the endowment committee (03/650 604)
  • Al Taalouf Club: Georges Antoun: (03/650 604)
Local guides

Ms. Carina Antoun: (71/818 687)

Mr. Saiid Baz (03/270 013)