We did some serious tourism today; we visited two old monasteries up north; Our Lady of Nourieh (Light) in Hamat, and the Theotokos Monastery in Kaftoun. Both are greek-orthodox monasteries run by nuns, venerating the virgin Mary. It seems that in greek orthodoxy, monasteries run by nuns are not called convents, but monasteries.
I don’t think we even have nuns anymore in Holland (correct me if I’m wrong). And if we do, they do not wear the uniform anymore. Here it is done the more traditional way; These ladies go in black, from head to toe. And some are quite young. In the old days – at least this was the case in Holland – people had large families, and it could be difficult (not to mention 'pricy') to marry them all off, so some of the children were ‘given’ to the church, i.e. they went for a career in clergy as either priests or nuns. I wonder if that is the case in Lebanon. Some of these nuns I saw today were very young, in their twenties. It seems a rather strong decision to make at such an early age, to commit yourself to something as rigid as religion.
The church of the Our Lady of the Light Monastery
The ‘Our Lady of Light’ monastery was built in 1880 in the place of an older one that dates from 600 A.D. The cliff on which it is built overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. This shore apparently used to be called Theoprosopon (near modern day Chekka) during the Greek era.
The other convent, the Theotokos monastery (scroll down for the English) - run by a group of a nuns of the order of Our-Lady of Kaftoun – is equally impressive. Theotokos in Greek means mother of God. Apparently there was already a shrine here in the 9ht century. The British Museum in London possesses some liturgical parchments from this monastery dating back to the 13th century . The momastery is on the edge of Kaftoun, on the Walnut River (Nahr el Jaouz), and build into an overhanging cliff. The church houses a rare two-sided Byzantine icon from the 11th century (which was stolen twice, but they got it back through divine intervention the last time; how appropriate). I was planning to make a picture, but you're not supposed to, and I couldn't get my camera out of my pocket of my pants because the nuns require all visitors in pants (except the men) to wear a skirt over their pants.
The church of the Theotokos Monastery
We thought it might be appropriate go there during easter, but it turns out the greek orthodox don’t have easter is not this weekend.
Enough tourism for a day. Tomorrow we go Easter egg hunting.