• Casa: Batroun
  • Distance from Beirut: 53 km
  • Altitude: 300-450 m
  • Access: Batroun – Eddeh – SmarJbeil Or Madfoun- Thoum – Rachana – SmarJbeil

General and historical information

According to many researchers, the name of the village Smar is from Armenian origin Shemreho or Shemer, which means protector or guardian. So SmarJbeil means “the guardian of Byblos”.

Among the most important vestiges in the town is the citadel, dating back to the Phoenician eras (date not agreed upon by all archeologists) and revealing remains from the roman and crusader periods. The area around the citadel is worth exploring. Oil and other presses, some in very good condition, are cut into the limestone hillside below the southwest part of the castle. This prominent rocky cliff may have been an ancient valuable place or temple. In the cliffs to the north below the citadel there are ancient sarcophagi and some notable statues standing, seated and kneeling figures that predate the citadel. These reliefs, carved above the entrance of the funerary caves, are similar to those found in Ghineh or Machnaqa in Mount Lebanon or Qana in the South.

The city was probably destroyed by an earthquake on the 25th November 1630, demolishing as well the fort.

SmarJbeil is known for containing around 365 wells.

SmarJbeil is also home of several historical churches. In the village stand two ancient pillars between which an old cemetery has been discovered.

Monuments and sites to visit
  • SmarJbeil Citadel:

The Ceramic collected on the site shows that it was occupied from the ancient Bronze Age, i.e from the third millennium before our era. A tetradrachm that was presented to Renan and that was occupied from the north slope of the castle go back to the Hellenistic period and it constitutes an Athenian emission from the reign of Pericles, i.e. the 5th century before our era. The bas-reliefs of the North Slope, where we can see ovoid reliefs, can be Hellenistic. According to Renan, the represented scenes are related to the ritual of the god Adonis, widespread in the giblet zone. On the North and North-West side of the castle, the roman remains are relative to Cave layouts and funerary grotto with tomb in shape of trough. One of the precious signs of the occupation of the site during the roman period is a Greek inscription incised on the slope where it is written in a cartridge in a swallow tail, it shows the death that happened in 241 of a certain Aurelia, a herculean woman, who lived 110 years, and who rests next to her son.

An artisanal structure shows the occupation of the site from the Phoenician period, as well as the Roman and Byzantine ones. It is formed of an unusual concentration of press rooms, cisterns and rupestrian tanks. Two big squares structures hollowed in the rock at the east of the castle seem to correspond to raisin pressing areas. So we are in the presence of a production center not only of oil but also of wine, which is not surprising in a region known in our days for its vineyards.

According to the tradition a Persian missionary (St. Nohra), came to SmarJbeil at the end of the 2nd century to preach Christianity. Martyred at Batroun, by the order of the emperor Diocletian, although his eyes were burst he didn’t lose his sight, because his faith’s power prevailed and he continued to see.

In the 7th century, the Maronite patriarch, Mar Youhanna Maron, has escaped from the Byzantine Antioch and went first to settle in the St. Maron Monastery on the Orontes River then he took refuge in the Lebanese Mountain at SmarJbeil, in 685. There, supported by Mardaites troupes of 12000 men, sent as reinforcement by his nephew Abraham, he was preparing for a battle which took place in Amioun and in which the Maronites were victorious. The patriarch went afterwards to Kfarhay where he founded a monastery.

 

  • Mar Basilios wa Nohra Parish Church (Sts. Basilius and Lucius)*:

The church was established during the early Christian era, with Syriac inscriptions on its eastern wall. Above the entrance of this church lies a sculpture of eleven stone rings in a cross shape, out of which hangs a vessel.

In the center of the village is the old church of Mar Nohra, said to be the burial place of this saint, who was a Persian Christian missionary. Partially built from temple debris, the north side of this picturesque church has been modernized. The oldest part is the south wall, which incorporates a medieval window and sections of temple columns. The church features a typical outside stone staircase and a bell tower. The front entrance is decorated with eleven sculpted chains carved from a single stone by the artist Elias ElKhoury (+1902), from SmarJbeil; a design also found on the portal of the “Hammam al Jadid” in Tripoli. The oldest part of the church is what is called by locals “The Visitors’Church”, backed to the 9th century.

 

Mar Nohra biography:

 

He was born in the city of Damanhour in Egypt, for a pagan family, but when he was introduced to a Christian man, he believed and was baptized with all his family. Nohra started preaching in Alexandria, and faced the governor who expulsed him, 2200 person from Alexandria followed him for what they found in him wisdom and convince, leaving their homes and jobs behind. When the governor noticed that the town was empty, he allowed Nohra’s followers to build churches and perform their ceremonies openly. Back in time Dokyanos was the governor of the Roman Empire, and responsible for thr persecutions, so St. Nohra decided to meet him. On his way he passed by Gaza, then Asqlan where many believed in The Lord and were baptized. He performed lot of miracles specially healing the blinds. Then he went to AlRamla, after to Akka until he reached Tyr, where he baptized more than 3000 converters, and there he built a church on the name of Virgin Mary.

When the king of Jbeil heard of him, he sent after him. Nohra came to Jbeil city, and start preaching the king of Jbeil who was baptized with many of his men. Nohra continued his way to Batroun, where the king sent after him, to get to know him, and when asked about his name and what he wants; he replied: “Nohra, God sent me asking to call his name among believers and unbelievers”. And he started preaching the Lord risen from death, master of earth and heaven. Criticizing idols and worships, who have eyes and don’t look and, have ears and don’t hear. When the king heard St. Nohra’s, he got upset and ordered to be tortured, to see if God can save him; but Nohra answered that he wanted to worship idols and offered sacrifices. King Dokyanos was happy and transferred him to SmarJbeil, place of Goddess; his followers started crying thinking that Nohra became an idol himself. But when Mar Nohra reached the pagan temple, he drew the sign of the cross, the statues started falling and breaking down, and   the earth opened and swallowed them. The devil shouted “you disappointed me Nohra, I left you Egypt and AlSaiid, and now you are tying me to metal and sending me to hell”. When the king saw what happened, he was afraid and decided to torture him, he put him on two wood boards, and took off his eyes, and cut him in two parts, and threw him in the well. But the angel came to him in the well, and and joined all the cut parts, so Nohra stood up alive and challenged the king again, when the king saw Nohra alive, he thought it’s a magic work, and he ordered to be placed on a warm wheels screws, and pulled by calves in town. People started crying when they saw him suffering. There was a handicap in the place, when he declared his faith, was cured in front of everybody, and 8000 were baptized. At that time Dokyanos decided to kill Nohra, the people of Batroun offered the king a sword to kill him, and they all contracted blindness, Nohra shouted loudly, and then his head was cut and he died on July 22,305AD.

The tradition for votive pilgrimages has pilgrims visit the well of Mar Nohra close to the citadel and do ablutions with the sacred water. The pilgrims have to repeat: “Ya mar Nohra Hdar hdar jayik min X zouar” (“Saint Lucius come to us, some visitors are coming from X.” Popular legends say that Mar Nohra never appeared to people originally from Batroun, because the tradition says that they denounced him and were the reason for his death.

 

  • Saydet Al Maounat Church (Our Lady):

It is distinguished by its antique stone building, believed to be one of the oldest churches in Lebanon. Its ceiling is destroyed; an oak tree shaded it as a natural ceiling. Some drawings on the walls are backed to the 9th century. It is located behind Mar Nohra church.

 

  • El Qeddiseh Takla Church (St. Takla Church)*:

This church seems to be dedicated to Mart Takla, who was converted from Paganism to Christianity after she heard St. Paul preaching. She was tortured many times, but miracles helped her to survive in very difficult situations, until she was martyred. The church is distinguished by the painting representing Mart Takla surrounded by two lions, with human features. Its feast is celebrated on September 24. Some believes that the existence of St. Takla’s church beside St. Nohra church is due to St. Nohra’s sister named Takla, and who followed her brother while preaching; and she was martyred and buried in SmarJbeil too. There aren’t any historical documents to prove it.

 

  • Walking trail on the footsteps of the Passion of The Christ (Darb El Salib): from Mar Nohra square to Mart Takla church
Local agriculture and products

Local agriculture: Olive, figs, almonds, tobacco.

Local products: Olive production (olives, oil, soap), marzipan, Jam, raspberry syrup, kishk, sumac, honey, thyme, grape and apple vinegar.

Rural Services and activities

Walking trails: Contact Mrs. Jeanne-Claude Toubia Dargham (71/ 789 635)

SmarJbeil – Ghouma – Mrah Al Zaya t- Mrah Chdid: 4 hours

St. Joseph Monastery Jrabta – Al Ain: 1 hour

Ain Mar Youhanna (Ghouma) – St. Joseph Monastery (Jrabta): 3 hours

 

Organized visit to explore olive cultivation: participate in harvesting; discover how oil is produced and how olive products are made.

Mr. Rouhana Bassil: (70/ 053 082 -730 720/ 06)

 

Organized visit to a beehive, to discover honey extract.

Mr. Rouhana Bassil: (70/ 053 082 -730 720/ 06)

 

Visit to Mr. Paul Dargham’s Dog training school/ Ghouma: (816 807/ 03)

Local celebrations
  • SmarJbeil Citadel festival, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism: in August, a programmed festival with activities for children such as horse riding, sword fighting, dancing and singing, and shows (dabke, traditional Lebanese dance), “Sahra Baalbakieh”, Mr. Issam Al Dick (03/654 515)
  • Mar Nohra feast celebration: July 20,21,22 (exhibitions, traditional dinner), Father Elie Saadeh (03/867 386)
  • El Qeddiseh Takla’s feast: September 24; traditional dinner in the church amphitheater. Father Elie Saadeh (03/867 386)
  • El Qeddiseh Therese’s feast: October 1, traditional dinner, Father Elie Saade (03/867 386)
  • Eid El Saydeh (The Assumption of Our Lady): August 15, traditional dinner, Ghouma: Farher George Wakim (03/718 138)
  • Eid El Salib (Feast of the Cross): September 14, A gathering around the saj, tabbouleh, fire gathering, Father George Wakim (03/718 138)
Food and Beverages

Furn w Istirahat “Al Saha”: Carl Benyamine (71/ 004 481)

Min Baytna snack, mouneh, and souvenirs:  

Mr. Rouhana Bassil: (082 053/70   – 730 720/ 06)

Dayaatna Restaurant – Ghouma: Mr .Antoine Haykal Franciss (03/413 166)

Aal Adim restaurant and bungalow – Mrah Al Zayat:  

Mr.Wissam Abi Nader: (03/ 375 085)

Al Patio restaurant: (70/096 888 – 70/376 697)

Yatoun restaurant: (03/ 869 197- 06/ 721 183)

Diit Inna Aaliit restaurant: Mr. Michel Abi Nader: (03/ 807 546)

Gio’s restaurant: Mr. George Nehme (06/720 368- 71/989 774)

Lodgings

TAFLA Project: Guest house – swimming pool – garden for events- camping- restaurant- bar:  Ms. Miriam Maatouk: (71/ 749 448); Fb: TAFLA 

Aal Adim restaurant and bungalows – Mrah Al Zayat:

Mr. Wissam Abi Nader: (03/ 375 085)

Wadaya Greenland (B&B – camping – chair rental), St. Rafqa main road – Jrabta: Mr.Antoine Abi Nader: (03/ 212 757)

Camping sites: Contact Mrs. Jeannne Claude Toubia Dergham (71/789 635)

In Ghouma: Beit Malek: the highest point in Ghouma.

Pine field next to St. Mary’s miraculous church.

Ain Mar Youhanna.