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Due to historical circumstances, since 1441, there have been two Catholicosates in the Armenian Church with equal rights and privileges, and with their respective jurisdictions. The primacy of honour of the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin has always been recognized by the Catholicosate of Cilicia. The Catholicosate of Cilicia is based in Antelias, Lebanon.


By Tony D.Ghossain

The Maronites trace their origin to St.Maron, a Syrian hermit of the late 4th, and early 5th centuries. They became a fully independent people after they routed the invading Byzantine armies of Justinian the second at the battle of Amioune, under the leadership of St. John Maron, patriarch of Antioch in 685-707.

According to their traditions, the Maronites were always in union with the Roman see. They fiercely opposed the Monophysites (those who taught that Jesus had one nature), and the Monothelites (7th- century christians who maintained that Christ had only one will). Their union with Rome was consolidated in the 16th century through the work of the Jesuit John Eliano. In 1584, Pope Gregory XIII founded the Maronite collage in Rome, Which became a training centre for great scholars and leaders of the Maronite church. The great patriarch, and historian Estephan ad-Doaihe was a graduate of that collage.

The hardy martial Maronites have always valiantly preserved their liberty, and traditions. Two Arab Umayyad Caliphs (661-750 AD) paid the Byzantine Emperor tribute to stop the Maronite Mardaites, called Jarajimah (they inhabited Jarjuma in the Amanus mountains in the modern Turkish province of Hatay, employed as soldiers by Byzantine emperors, they occupied Lebanon, and northern Palestine), attacking their territories. Justinian II by agreement with the Umayyed Caliph Abd al- Malik, resettled 12000 Mardaites in parts of Anatolia, and Greece 685 AD. The remaining Mardaites merged with their spiritual brothers, the mountain Phoenicians, and Aramaic people (Evangelised by the Maronite monk Ibraheem al- Qureshi, traditionally the first Maronite to set foot in Lebanon), the Christian Arabs, who fled the Muslim conquests, the Anbats (Arab farmers, and town dwellers of the Orontes valley), and run away slaves seeking refuge in the Lebanese mountains, to form the present day Maronites.

In the spring of 694 the invading Byzantine army of Justinian II, attacked St. Maron's monastery on the Orontes river in Syria, which was the patriarchal see of st. John Maron, the first Patriarch of the Maronites, and massacred 500 Maronite monks. With the help of his nephew Muqaddam (commander) Ibrahime , and 12000 Maronite fighters, st. John Maron fled to Smar Jbail in Lebanon, and finally settled in Kfir Hay in the Batroun district in Lebanon. When the Byzantine army reached Amioun in the Koura it was attacked, and routed by the Lebanese Maronites.

The Maronites lived in the relative safety of their mountain, their Patriarchs, and clergy guided them in their spiritual, and worldly affairs. Their valiant fighters were always ready to defend their faith, and their way of life, but betrayals came from friends, and foes.

When the Crusaders arrived in Lebanon on their way to the holy lands, they were welcomed by the Maronites as spiritual brothers. The Maronite fighters fought on their side, and were the shock troops of the Crusaders, and their best archers. In the beginning all went well, then political, and religious rivalries, started to cause major problems. 1282 Patriarch Daniel al- Hatchity died, the Crusader lord of Byblos, which was part of the greater county of Tripoli, refused to accept the election of Patriarch Luka al-Bnehrany, accusing him of being anti-Rome, he caused some of the bishops to elect Ermia a-Dmelsawy. Patriarch Luka left the Patriarchal see in Yanouh, which was in the Byblos district, and moved to Hadeth el- Joubbeh, which became the fortress of Maronite resistance.

An unholy agreement between the Muslim Mamluke Sultan Qalawun, the deadly enemy of the Crusaders, and the Count of Tripoli allowed a Mamluke led army of Turkmen to invade the strong holds of Patriarch Luka. They attacked Ehden in June 1283, which fiercely resisted the Mamluke Army for 40 days, before it was overrun, then Bqufa was destroyed in July 1283, the fortress of Houqa couldn't be overrun, till the traitor Iben Sabha from Kfirsghab taught the Mamlukes how to flood it with water from a fountain in Bsharri. The Mamlukes bypassed Hadshit, and Bsharie, and attacked Hasroun, and Kfirsaroun ( a village between Hasroun, and Diman), and burned them. On the 22nd of August 1283 they attacked the Hadeth. Luka, and his people took refuge in a cave fortress (sheer al-Aassy), which the Mamlukes, besieged for a period of seven years, according to notes written by a monk on a prayer book found in a cave below the Hadeth ( seven month is more likely). The Mamlukes tricked Patriarch Luka, they offered him, and his people safe passage if they peacefully surrendered, which was an agreement they never intended to honour. They captured him, and enslaved whoever they could capture of his people.Tripoli was eventually attacked, and captured by the Mamlukes , and the Crusaders were expelled from the whole of Lebanon.

An alliance of Maronites, Druse, and Shia Muslims fighters destroyed a Mameluke army in the Byblos district between al- Fanar, and al-Madfoun 1302. 1307 the Mamelukes attacked the strong hold of the alliance in Kisrwen, and the mountain, massacred the people, and burnt their villages. After that battle, the Maronites were effectively dominated by the Mamlukes, and later by the Ottoman Turks who defeated the Malukes in the battle of Marjdabek, and took over the Sultanate.

Infighting amongst the Maronites caused their Patriarchate to be move several times, from Yanouh to Eliege, Kfir Hay, Hardine, Hadeth (Patriarch Luka)........., till eventually Patriarch Yuhanna al- Jajie moved the Patriarchate to the valley of Qannoubine 1444 to be under the protection of Muqadem Yaaqub ibn Ayoub of Bsharrie, who was favoured by the Mamluke Sultan. The Patriarchate remained in Qannoubine for over 400 years, then was moved to Diman, and Bkerki. Diman is the summer residence of the Patriarch, and Bkerki the winter residence. Qannoubine remains nominally the autumn residence.

The Maronites suffered a lot under the Mamlukes, and the Ottoman Turks tax farming system, in which Districts were leased to corrupt Chieftains, who paid the tax levied by more corrupt Pashas (ministers of the Sultanate), who in turn payed the Sultan. Of course profit had to be made, it worked on a lease system. The poor people had to pay it all.

On many occasions the Patriarch had to flee for his life from the corrupt tax farming Sheiks, some of them were Maronites, whose cheap Turkish titles were more important to them than their religion, and their own people, and even their Patriarch. 1609 Patriarch Yuhanna ibn Mackloof was forced by Khater al-Hassrounie, who was Youssef Sayfa's man in the Bsharrie district, to flee to Mejdil Limouche to be under the protection of Emir Fakhr e-Deen II. Youssef Sayfa was the Pasha of Tripoli, and the sworn enemy of Emir Fakhr e-Deen the Druse Emir, who became one of the most powerful Emirs in the history of Lebanon, his Maronite, and Druse Fighters threatened the existence of the Ottoman Sultanate. Honest Sheiks were not tolerated by the corrupt system. Yaqoub ibn a-Rayes Elias nicknamed Abu Karam al-Hadethy who was one of the great commanders of Fackr e- Deen's army, and the Sheik of Hadeth el- Joubbeh, and the district of Bsharrie was tortured, and martyred in Tripoli 1640, when he refused to visit the new Pasha Muhamed el- Arnaout, and refused the Pasha's offer to spare his life if he became a Muslim.

Maronite villagers left their villages, and moved to the southern area of Lebanon, and the Shouf mountain seeking the protection of the great Emir Fakher e-Deen II, who in turn made use of their martial traditions, and his fellow war like Druse, to build a strong army with which he occupied the whole of Lebanon, Palestine, and a great part of Syria. Unfortunately, the Emir didn't have the resources to maintain his military forces. He was captured by the Turks, and was murdered with his family.

The Druse, and the Maronites lived in harmony for a long period of time. Emir Bashir II tried to accomplish what the great Fakher e-Deen tried, and failed. Emir Bashir al-Shehab was a Sunnite Muslim, became a Maronite later. the great Druse Sheik Bashir Jumbulat supported him in the beginning then turned against him later. Emir Bashir, being a Maronite??? ( one historian said that Emir Bashir was half Muslim quarter Druse, and quarter Maronite) used his Maronite fighters to suppress his old friend, and benefactor Sheik Bashir Jumblatt, and got him murdered by Abdallah Pasha, the Govenor of Akka, 1825.The seeds of hatred were planted. They were nurtured by foreign powers seeking political, and commercial foot hold in the Levant, and the Turks divide and rule policy. The French appointed themselves as protectors of the Maronites, the English decided to protect the Druse, the Russians became the protectors of the Orthodox, and of course the Ottomans whose Sultan was the Caliph of the Sunnites were their defacto protector. The 1860 massacres were their terrible fruit.

Youssef Beg Karam led a small group of brave fighters, and tried to kick the Turks out of the country, but found no support from the French or from anybody else. He was pressurised by the French consul to go into exile.

After the defeat of the Ottomans in the first world war, the French army occupied Lebanon, and declared the state of greater Lebanon, under the French mandate. The Maronites breathed a sigh of relief, but not for long. The French promised independence, but refused to deliver, till after world war II when the Lebanese revolted, and declared their own independence. The Maronite president, and his Government, Christians, and Muslims were arrested. Violent demonstrations were staged by all the Lebanese. France was pressurised by its allies to release the detainees, and Lebanon became a fully independent state. There was a gentlemen agreement between the leaders ( the national convention), the president would always be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunnite, the speaker of the parliament a Shia Muslim, and the deputy speaker a Christian Orthodox. The parliament ratio would be 5/6 in favour of the Christians(half christians and half muslims after the Taif Agreement which ended the recent Lebanese civil war),

The Palestinian people were driven out of their country by the Zionist Jews to establish the state of Israel. Many of them landed in refugee camps in Lebanon hoping to go back to their land in the near future. It was not to be. After three disastrous wars, 1948, 1956, and 1967, which more of their land was occupied by the Jews, they took up arms, and started a gorilla warfare against the Jewish state. Most of their power was concentrated in Lebanon, especially after they were expelled from Jordan. The Maronites felt the threat of the heavily armed Palestinians, especially after the signing of the Cairo agreement, which effectively placed the Palestinian fighters above the Lebanese law. The Maronites started to arm themselves. Sectarian violence followed, there was no shortage of arms, and suppliers, regional powers, and foreign powers were always ready to lend a destructive hand. The foreigners fought their mini wars on the land of Lebanon using Lebanese fighters, and shedding Lebanese blood. Eventually brothers were fighting against each others on the streets of Beirut. Maronite fighters of the Lebanese forces, and Maronite soldiers of the Lebanese army fought some of the most vicious battles of the Lebanese civil war against each others. The same thing happened in the Palestinian, the leftist, and the Muslim camp.

Lebanon is trying to recover, the Maronites are looking for guidance from the Lord of Bkirki, Patriarch Nassralla Cardinal Sfeir, which they should have sought much, much earlier, his wisdom, and blessing would have prevented a lot of killings, and destruction, especially amongst his flock The Maronites.