Monasteries in Lebanon
A photo essay on Balamand & Deir el-natour Monastery
Deir el-natour monastery:
The convent’s ancient origin is attached to a legend. A rich man of the region committed adultery; filled with remorse, he attached a padlocked iron chain to his ankle and threw the key into the sea-shore and survived on the fish brought to him by local fishermen, who called him the guardian of the cavern. One day, a fisherman brought him a fish, in whose entrails the hermit found the key of the padlock. He knew then that God had delivered him from his suffering, and he built a convent above the cavern. He dedicated it to The Mother of God, but it also took the name of the Guardian.
Balamand derives from the French Belmont. The name given by twelfth-century Cistercian monks to their first monastery in the Levant, founded on a hill three hundred meters above sea-level, overlooking the coastal plain sixteen kilometers southeast of Tripoli and eighty kilometers north of Beirut. Since 1603, the site has been the center of an Antiochian Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to St George. It remains a place of prayer and contemplation, but since the 1970s, Balamand has become a complex of religious and educational institutions. These include the secondary school of Our Lady of Balamand, the St John of Damascus Institute of Theology, and the University of Balamand, founded in 1988, of which the Institute has become a part.