Shlomo (Peace in Syriac) Vladimir,
I am sorry that I did not see your post till now, but with the Holidays I some times just brows the board.
Here is a history of my Church and people. Also here is the address of our Church in Arizona.
Fr. Nabil Mouannes
Phoenix, Arizona 85076-1241
OFC: (602) 759-9384
Poosh BaShlomo (Stay in Peace),
Aspects of Maronite History
By Chorbishop Seely Beggiani.
The founding of the Maronite Church is due to three historical events: the life and deeds of St. Maron, the establishment of the Monastery of Bet Maroun ("the House of Maron"), and the organization of the Maronite Partriarchate. The hermit and ascetic St. Maron gave the Maronite Church not only its name, but also its soul and inspiration. The monks of the Monastery of Bet Maroun and the laity who gathered around them constituted the community of faith which was to develop its own Christian and Syriac identity. Constituting itself as a Patriarchate defined the Maronite church's juridical structure as a viable and particular church among the other churches of the universal Catholic church. By studying the history of the birth and growth of the Maronite church we can come to an understanding of the persons, places, cultures and events that define her character and shape her identity and mission.
The Period before St. Maron
The roots of Christianity in Lebanon go back to Jesus Christ. The Gospels tell us of His travels to Tyre and Sidon, and His dialogue with the Phoenician woman. There is even the legend that the Transfiguration of Christ took place in the region of the Cedars. After the ascension of Christ, the Apostles went out to preach the Gospel to the whole world. We presume that St. Peter and the Apostles used the Lebanese coastal road to go to Antioch.
The Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 11:19) tell us that due to the persecution that ensued after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the Christian community was dispersed and some carried the message to Phoenicia. Describing the journey of St. Paul, chapter 21 of Acts informs us that when Paul came to Tyre he "looked for the disciples there and stayed with them for a week". It goes on to describe that at the time of Paul's departure from Tyre, the whole community including the women and children came to bid him farewell and knelt and prayed on the beach.
Chapter 27 of Acts, in narrating St. Paul's departure for Rome, mentioned that the entourage stopped at Sidon where Paul was allowed to visit "friends who cared for his needs".
These references indicate to us that Christianity was established in Lebanon from its earliest days. Very soon, Tyre, Sidon, and Beirut became dioceses with their own bishops.
In their prayer and worship these early Christians of Lebanon and Syria would have been influenced by the liturgical practice of Jerusalem and Antioch. Further to the east and in the small towns and villages of the countryside, the Syriac culture developed by the early Christian communities of Nisibis and Edessa and crystallized in the writings of St. Ephrem and James of Saroug had the greater impact. Thus, the theological and liturgical matrix out of which the Maronite Church would arise was already in development.
From the earliest days of Christianity, men and women were attracted by the call to follow Christ in total discipleship and complete renunciation. In the beginning, there was no established way on how this was to be achieved. In another article, we have described the uniquely Syriac institution of the "sons and daughters of the covenant", where men and women sought to fulfill their baptismal commitment by living lives of celibacy within the Christian community at large. Other Christian ascetics sought to live as solitaries in deserted places. They usually spent their days in long periods of prayer with severe fasting and other rigorous forms of asceticism. Some chose to mortify themselves by becoming 'stylites,' living on the top of columns for long periods of time. Others chose to live out in the open without benefit of shelter, exposing themselves to the elements. Their goal was total detachment so that by disciplining their bodies, they might focus only on things spiritual.
While these holy men and women more often lived alone, they did attract disciples who came to them for spiritual direction. In a sense these small groups of ascetics were the precursors of the development of cloistered monastic communities.
It was in this milieu of hermits and ascetics that we learn of St. Maron. Maron decided to leave the world and to seek solitude on top of a mountain, probably somewhere south of Cyrrhus and northwest of Aleppo. He had been a disciple of the hermit Zebinas who was known for his assiduousness in prayer, spending all day and night at it. Our principal historical source on the life of Maron is Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus (393-466), who wrote the Religious History of Syriac Asceticism. Theodoret tells us that the mountain Maron chose had been sacred to pagans. He converted a pagan temple that he found there into a church which he dedicated to the "true God".
Maron lived an austere life. While he erected a small tent for shelter, he rarely used it and spent most of his time in the open air as a form of mortification. We are told that Maron was not satisfied with the ordinary exercises of piety but added to them. He would often spend the whole night standing in prayer. He practiced numerous other penances and fasted for weeks on end.
Maron became known for the gift of miracles and attracted many people, even from great distances. He accomplished many cures and exorcisms. Theodoret goes on to say: "He cured not only infirmities of the body, but applied suitable treatment to soul as well, healing this man's greed and that man's anger, to this man supplying teaching in self-control and to that providing lessons in justice, correcting this man's intemperance and shaking up another man's sloth."
Maron attracted a number of disciples for whom he became a spiritual father. Theodoret summarizes the work of Maron in poetic fashion: "By cultivating that spiritual field, he raised in it many wonderful plants in the realm of virtues, cultivating and offering to God this marvelous garden that now flourishes in the region of Cyrrhus."
We are told that after the death of Maron, the people of the various neighboring villages fought over his body. It was the belief that having a holy person buried close by would bring blessings and cures on the inhabitants. Theodoret informs us that the inhabitants of the nearest and largest village came in great numbers, took possession of the body, and built over it a magnificent church. While we do not know the exact location, it was probably between Aleppo and Cyrrhus. Theodoret tells us that the relics of Maron are venerated with great public solemnity in his day and are the occasion of many miracles.
The other historical source we have about St. Maron is a letter addressed to him by St. John Chrysostom. Chrysostom had been exiled from the Patriarchate of Constantinople to Cucusus in Armenia. From there he wrote to "Maron, priest and solitary", telling him that he is "joined to [him] in the bonds of charity and affection" and is comforted by the news he hears about Maron's holy life. He is concerned about his health and asks for his prayers. We believe that the letter was written around 406.
Based on the writings of Theodoret and Chrysostom, we usually date St. Maron's life from 350-410 (although some have placed his death as late as 423).
The Disciples of St. Maron
Theodoret also describes for us the lives of some of the disciples Maron left behind. There were among others James of Cyrrhus, Limnaeus, Domnina, Cyra and Marana. Theodoret singles out especially James of Cyrrhus who had been taught by Maron and later went off to live by himself. He lived a life of austerity, exposing himself to the open air and the elements without respite, saying that the skies were his roof. After living in a small cell, he went to a mountain near Cyrrhus. Due to his renown for holiness, pilgrims would come and take its soil for a blessing. He also possessed the gift of miracles, and is said to have raised a child from the dead.
St. Limnaeus, after being taught by Maron, also lived in the open air. He possessed the gift of healing, and also gathered blind beggers around him and sought to take care of their needs. Sts. Cyra and Marana were two noble women of Beroea, who founded a small convent on the outskirts of the city. They themselves lived in the open air and carried heavy iron and chains on their bodies as a form of mortification. They also practiced long periods of fasting.
Emulating the life of Maron, St. Domnina set up a small hut made up of grain stalks in the garden of her mother's house. She lived her life in prayer and fasting, giving alms to those in need. Mention should also be made of the austere hermit, and later bishop, Abraham, who Theodoret tells us converted a large village in Lebanon from impiety to the true faith.
R. M. Price, who has translated Theodoret's Religious History into English observes: "St. Maron emerges from the Religious History as the first influential hermit of the region of Cyrrhus. His pattern of life in the open air, exposed to the extremes of the climate, was imitated by many . . . and gave the asceticism of Cyrrhestica a distinctive character, for elsewhere hermits normally lived in cells or caves.
What is remarkable about St. Maron is that his main goal in life was not to become famous, but to serve his God in total detachment from the world. Yet while being separated from the world, he served the people of this world, who came to him in search of spiritual and physical healing. His eye and his heart were set on God and union with Him in the future kingdom. Yet by being totally faithful to God's will, this humble hermit has also achieved worldly immortality through the Church which ears his name. In face, the Maronite Church is the only church in Catholicism which bears the name of a person.
The Monastery of St. Maron
The spirit and teachings of St. Maron lived on after his death in his disciples. Not only was a church built in his memory which became a site for pilgrimage, but very soon after his death in the early part of the fifth century, a monastery was established nearby. Scholars place the monastery at Qalaaat al Modeeq near Apameus. The Monastery of St. Maron (Bet Maroun) grew in significance and in numbers as time went on. (The Arab historian, Abu al-Fida tells us that the Emperor Marcian sought to buttress the doctrinal position of the Council of Chalcedon by increasing the size of the Monastery of St. Maron and allowing a large number of Greek-speaking monks to be settled there.) In 445, Theodoret of Cyrrhus informs us that there were 400 monks in residence. Bishop Thomas of Kfartab in the 11th century speaks of as many as 800 monks. Mas'oudi, an Arab historian of the 10th century, describes the Monastery as a large edifice surrounded by 300 cells. The Monastery of St. Maron came to preside over a federation of monasteries in their province. Its representatives participated in synods of Constantinople in 536 and 553.
The monks of St. Maron came from among the people of the region, and the Monastery was the place where the lay people received their religious instruction and were educated and trained in various skills. Therefore, both the religious and lay followers of the spirit of St. Maron became known as the Maronites. As time went on, this community possessing it sown religious and cultural identity became known as the Maronite nation.
Defenders of the Faith
The region in which the Maronites lived was the crossroads of many cultures and beliefs. It was the arena for rich, but also controversial theological speculation. In the fifth century much debate took place regarding how the divine and human natures of Christ were to be taught. No good Christian doubted that Christ was both divine and human, but there was disagreement in explaining how the two realities related to each other. Some tried to say that the divine and human in Christ were two independent persons who worked together. This teaching, known as Nestorianism, was condemned by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431, because the bishops reasoned if God had not truly united Himself to our humanity, then we have not been redeemed. The Christians of Persia persisted in the Nestorian teaching and separated themselves from the universal Church.
Others took the opposite approach, teaching that there was only one nature in Christ, that the divine completely absorbed the human. This teaching, known as Monophysitism, was condemned by the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (a town near Constantinople) in 451. The Council taught that Christ was fully divine and fully human but one in person. Many Christians of Egypt (Copts) and Ethiopia persisted in the Monophysite teaching, as did many Christians of the church of Antioch, who were referred to as Jacobites (named after their founder, Jacob Baradai).
The Maronites (as well as the Melkites) were staunch defenders of the Council of Chalcedon. The monks of St. Maron took the lead in preaching the true doctrine and stopping the propagation of heresy. The monks describe their activity in a memorandum sent by the priest Alexander, who was head of the Monastery to the Bishops of the region. This memorandum was inserted in the acts of the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 553.
The 350 Maronite Martyrs
In a letter addressed to Pope Hormisdas in 517, monks of St. Maron address the Pope as the one occupying the Chair of St. Peter, and inform him that they are undergoing many sufferings and attacks patiently. They single out Antiochian Patriarchs Severus and Peter, who, they say, anathematize the Council of Chalcedon and Pope Leo, whose formula the Council had adopted. The Maronites are mocked for their support of the Council and are suffering afflictions. The Emperor Anastasius had sent an army that had marched through the district of Apamea closing monasteries and expelling the monks. Some had been beaten and others were thrown into prison. While on the way to St. Simon Stylite, the Maronites had been ambushed and 350 monks were killed, even though some of them had taken refuge at the altar. The monastery was burned. The Maronites appealed to the Emperor in Constantinople, but to no avail. Now, they appeal to the Pope for deliverance against the enemies of the Fathers and the Council. They exclaim: "Do not therefore look down upon us, Your Holiness, we who are daily attacked by ferocious beasts. . . . We anathematize Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Peter of Alexandria and Peter the Fuller of Antioch, and all their followers and those who defend their heresies." The letter was signed first by Alexander, priest and archimandrite of St. Maron. Over 200 other signatures follow, of other archimandrites, priests and deacons. The importance of the Monastery of Bet Maroun is evidenced by Alexander's name leading the list of delegates.
Pope Hormisdas, in a letter dated February 10, 518, tells the archimandrites, priests, and deacons of the region of Apamea that he read their letter describing the persecutions of the heretics. He consoles them in their sufferings and tells them not to despair for they are gaining eternal life through this. The Emperor Justinian restored the walls of the principal monastery of St. Maron.
The Expansion of the Maronites
Having originated in the area of Apameus, the Maronites spread into the valley of the Orontes River, to Hama and Homs. They also spread to other regions: Mabboug, Qennesrin, Aleppo, Damascus, Edessa, Baghdad, Takrit, and al-Awasim (a line of fortifications stretching from Antioch to Mabboug, raised under the Abbasids against the Byzantine armies).
The Formation of the Maronite Patriarchate
The Moslem conquests of the seventh century had a profound effect on the church of Antioch and the region in which the Monastery of St. Maron was located. Maronite immigration to Lebanon, which had begun some time before, was intensified, especially since the enemies of the Maronites sided with the Moslem armies against the Maronites.
The Patriarchs of Antioch were also under siege. After the death of Patriarch Anastasius (around 609), only titular patriarchs of Antioch were named and they resided not at Antioch but at Constantinople. Having been physically vacant since 685, the Patriarchate became juridically vacant in 702, and no one was named as a successor. It was during this time that John Maron, Maronite Bishop of Batroun became Patriarch of Antioch and established himself in Kfarhai, Lebanon. Writing regarding an event that occurred in 746, the historian Denis of Tell Mahre declares: "The Maronites remain as they are today. They ordain a patriarch and bishops from their monastery."
In 694 the Emperor Justinian Rhinotmeteus sent troops against the Maronites. Soldiers attacked the monastery and killed 500 monks, and went toward Tripoli, Lebanon to capture John Maron. However, they were ambushed on the way and two of their leaders were killed. This was only one of several persecutions which forced John Maron to flee several times. St. John Maron died around 707 in the Monastery of St. Maron in Kfarhai.
Persecutions by heretics and the Arabs resulted in the destruction of the Monastery of St. Maron and the definitive establishment of the Patriarchate in Mount Lebanon. The historian, Patriarch Stephen Douaihi, tells us that this took place under John Maron II in 939. The historian Massoudi, who died in 956, informs us that the Monastery of St. Maron was destroyed by the sultan reigning at his time. In Lebanon the Patriarchate was successively located in the Monasteries of Ianouh, Maiphouq, Kfarhai, and Qannoubin (in the "Valley of the Saints"). Patriarch Douaihi tells us that due to persecution the patriarchal see was changed fourteen times from its beginning in 685 until it was finally settled in Qannoubin in 1440 by Patriarch John al-Jaji.
The institution of the Patriarchate was not followed immediately by a complete ecclesiastical organization. The Patriarch remained for a long time the only head of his people. Without doubt, heading certain towns, villages, and even monasteries were bishops; but they were, strictly speaking, only representatives of the Patriarch. The division of the Patriarchate into eparchies or dioceses was accomplished only following the Synod of 1736.
Since the Maronite community was founded on a religious core, it was natural that the Patriarchate would become the rallying point, in both political and ecclesiastical spheres. This status of the Patriarch was reinforced further by the temporal rights that the Arabs recognized for the spiritual heads of Christian communities, and that the Crusaders, Mamelouks, and Ottoman Turks continued.
The Maronite historian, Bishop Peter Dib, has observed that the geographic situation of the Maronites in Lebanon, and the religious and political battles that they were undergoing, had especially reinforced them in a spirit of nationality; they saw in their fidelity to the Patriarch an expression of patriotic sentiment. Retrenched in the precipices of the mountains of Lebanon, this people was able to create for itself its own way of life and to enjoy a certain autonomy under the direction of their spiritual leaders. The French writer R. Ristelhueber states: "Strongly grouped around their clergy and their Patriarch, the Maronites constituted a small people with their own particular identity. The holy valley of Kadisha, marked with cells of hermits, and the cedars in the heights were symbols of their vitality and independence. The patriarchal Monastery of Qannoubin, perched as an eagle's nest, summarized their whole history."
Immigration to Lebanon, which had increased after the Arab invasions, had intensified under the Abbasid Calif al-Mamoun (813-33). The choice of Lebanon was understandable since its mountains were almost impenetrable. The oldest known Maronite establishment in Lebanon is Mar Mammas in Ehden in 749. Maronite had immigrated also to Cyprus and Rhodes.
Thus we see that the Maronite Church rooted in the ascetic spirit of St. Maron, was molded into a community of faith with a monastic stamp. Its origin and early development help to explain why its liturgical life is characterized by simplicity and a hopeful anticipation of the future kingdom. From its birth it has been called upon to defend the faith in its preaching and teaching and to witness to the faith in persecution and martyrdom. Its vocation is to live the Gospel of Christ whatever the circumstances and whatever the place in which it finds itself.
Very little is known about the Maronites in Lebanon between the time of their being established there in the seventh and eighth centuries and the coming of the Crusades in the eleventh century. During this period the Maronites and the region were dominated by the Abbasids, whose rule was often severe and who persecuted and decimated the Maronites. When the first Crusaders arrived in Lebanon in 1098, they were surprised and pleased to find fellow Christians who welcomed them with hospitality. We are told that the Maronites were of great assistance to the Crusaders both as guides and as a fighting force of 40,000 men known for their prowess in battle. The Franciscan F. Suriano, writing some time later, described them as "astute and prone to fighting and battling. They are good archers using the Italian style of cross-bowing". The Crusaders not only passed through Lebanon on the way to the Holy Places, but established themselves in the country and built fortresses in a number of areas, the ruins of which remain to this day. Close relations were also established between the Latin Hierarchy that accompanied the Crusaders and the Maronite Church. With the coming of the Crusaders, it would seem that the Maronites made a conscious decision to seek the support of the West. Prior to this time, the Maronites lived and thought on a provincial level. Their major concerns were to defend themselves against local heretics (a struggle based not only on a religious plane, but also on ethnic and cultural levels) and to attempt to establish a Modus Vivendi with Arab rulers. With the coming of the Crusaders they began to look to the West for assistance. Ties with the Holy See became closer, Western practices were adopted, and Latin influence and changes in the Maronite Liturgy took place. The Lebanese historian Philip Hitti observes: "of all the contacts established by the Latin with the peoples of the Near East, those with the Maronites proved to be most fruitful, the most enduring. Disabilities, particularly those imposed by the Ummayyad Umar, the Abbasid al-Muttawakkil and the Fatimid al-Hakim, under which the Christian minorities (at best second class citizens) lived, had conditioned them for foreign influences and rendered them especially receptive to friendly approaches from Westerners." The era of the Crusades produced a veritable renaissance in the Maronite Church. Numerous churches were built and religious art works were produced at this time. Ernest Renan cites churches in the towns of Hattoun, Maiphoug, Helta, Toula, Bhadidat, Ma'ad, Koura, and Semar-Jebail among others as examples.
Because of their close ties with the Crusaders, the Maronites began to adopt certain Latin practices. From the 12th century they began to use bells in Lebanon, according to the way of the Western church; up to that time they had used wood for the calling of the faithful to church as the Greeks do. When Queen Constance, wife of the King of Sicily, bought the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and the Sanctuary of Bethlehem, she gave to the Maronites the Grotto of the Cross and many altars in other churches in the Holy City, permitting them to celebrate on the altar of the Franks and using their religious articles. It was during this time that Maronite prelates began wearing ring, miter and cross as the Latins do. Patriarch Jeremiah al-Amshiti was the first Patriarch to make an official visit to Rome in 1213. He assisted at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. A painting depicting a miraculous event which occurred while he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Rome showed the consecrated Host hovering above his head. It was displayed in St. John Lateran for many centuries. In a Bull addressed to the Maronites in 1215, and reiterated by subsequent Popes, Pope Innocent III encouraged Latin practices, such as having the Bishop alone as the minister of Confirmation, and decreeing that nothing other than olive oil and balsam should be used in the preparation of Chrism. He also called for the use of bells to discern the hours and to call the people to church. Pope Innocent also sent the Maronites church ornaments and vestments conforming to the Latin usage. Rome kept contact with the Maronites in the 13th century through visitations by Dominican and Franciscan friars. The Franciscans opened monasteries in Antioch, Tripoli, Tyre and Sidon.
The Alleged Conversion of the Maronites
If one were to consult many of the standard encyclopedias and reference works regarding the history of the Maronites, the vast majority will claim that the Maronites were once heretics and experienced a conversion at the time of the Crusaders in the 12th century. The Maronite Church has always denied this charge and has always affirmed its acceptance of all the teachings of the Catholic Church and its constant union with the Pope. It seems that a principal source of this false accusation was the writing of a historian of the time, William of Tyre. In his history, he speaks about a mass conversion of Maronites that took place around 1182 which involved the Patriarch, all the bishops and the laity. He identifies the heresy as that of monothelitism, the teaching that there is only one will in Christ. The heresy of monothelitism arose in the seventh century as a misguided attempt by the Emperor to bring religious peace to his empire by a formula that would seek to compromise the views of the monophsites who claimed that there was only one nature in Christ and the Catholic party who said that there were two natures in Christ, a divine and a human one. Monothelitism taught that Christ had two natures but one will, which in effect was the divine will. Those who advocated this heresy declared that to speak of two wills in Christ would be to say that the human will could diverge from the divine will, which would mean that Christ could sin. The Catholic party declared that to eliminate the human will in Christ would be to distort His humanity. The sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 681 condemned the heresy of monothelitism. For a church or a community of believers to be guilty of heresy, it must make the teaching a public position of their church. It must be taught by their patriarch and bishops. To be guilty of formal heresy in the Catholic Church, one must be condemned officially by the Church and persist in the teaching once condemned. There is no indication that the Maronite Church as a church ever taught monothelitism. Some authors have tried to point to one or more writings of individual Maronites. But nowhere is there a false teaching attributed to a Maronite patriarch or bishop. Furthermore, the Council of Constantinople in condemning monothelitism listed by name those who had spread this heresy. The Maronite Church is not mentioned and there is no Maronite name on the list. Regarding the claims of William of Tyre of a miraculous conversion of the Maronites, some Maronite scholars have speculated that the event might have been in actuality a public profession of faith rather than an abjuration of heresy. Through the years opponents of the Maronites have repeated the charge of heresy for their own purposes. It is unfortunate that various encyclopedias have perpetuated this unsubstantiated charge and not consulted the officials of the Maronite Church. On the other hand, for the last nine hundred years the Popes, in official declarations, have consistently praised the Maronites for their perpetual union with the Church of Rome.
The Defeat of the Crusaders
Towards the end of the 13th century the Mamelukes of Egypt began to gain the upper hand in the eastern Mediterranean. The crusaders in retreat found refuge among the Maronites in Lebanon. While the Franks tried to hold the line there, they were defeated by the Sultan's troops. In 1267 upper Lebanon was destroyed. Many captives were beheaded, trees were cut and the churches were destroyed. From 1289 to 1291 the whole of the Lebanese coast fell to the invaders. The once flourishing cities of the Mediterranean went up in flames as the Moslems took their vengeance on the Christians. According to the Historian Theodore of Hama, even in Kisrawan, not a monastery, church or fort was saved from destruction. The last Crusader fortress, St. John of Acre, fell shortly after Beyrouth in 1291. A good number of Maronites grouped around their Patriarch and established at Hadeth a center of resistance. But the Patriarch himself was soon captured. The loss of the Latin states caused the conquered to look to the island of Cyprus, acquired in 1192 by Guy de Lusignan. Many Maronites followed the movement of immigration to Cyprus. They chose to live in the higher elevations of the island where they preserved their culture and their customs. We know that there was a Maronite bishop in Cyprus as early as 1340. The Maronite immigration also extended to Rhodes. The period of the Crusades marks an important milestone in the history of the Maronites. The communication with the West from this time on were to increase and become solidified. Many religious orders were to come to Lebanon in succeeding centuries and establish institutions and schools. European culture would also be transmitted. Latinization of the Maronite rite, which had its beginnings with the Crusades, was to continue with the Synod of Mount Lebanon in 1736. Even politically, the Maronites looked for aid and support more often than not from the countries of Europe, especially France.
The Rule of the Mamlouks
The year 1291 marked the definitive loss of the last remnants of crusader rule in the Middle East. From that time the region was under the domination of the Mamlouk until the Ottoman conquest in 1516. Fearing a new invasion from the west, the Mamlouk rulers were suspicious of any relations of the indigenous Christians with foreign countries. Any attempt at ties with the West were considered unpardonabletreason, a plot against the security of the state.
The Maronites, grouped in Northern Lebanon, organized themselves under the direction of their Patriarch and clergy. They divided themselves into many districts headed by chiefs taken from within the nation and called mouqaddimin. This organization gave them a certain autonomy. The mouqaddimin were responsible to the Mamlouk governor of Tripoli and administered the temporal affairs of the community. They were generally ordained subdeacons so that they would have a right of precedence over the laity in the Church. By the fourteenth century the Maronites in Lebanon had grown in numbers and occupied a considerable number of towns and villages.
The Franciscans in Lebanon
After a lapse of several decades, the popes of the fifteenth century took a renewed interest in the East, and especially in reuniting those who had separated from Rome. Missionaries from various religious orders were sent to the Middle East. The Franciscans especially became active in Lebanon at this time.
In response to an invitation from Pope Eugene IV to attend the Council of Ferrar-Florence, Patriarch John al-Jajji commissioned the Superior of the Franciscans in Beyrouth to represent the Maronite Church and to assure the Holy Father that the Maronite Patriarch accepted in advance all the decisions of the Council.
Suspicious and angered by the developing ties between the Maronite Patriarch and the West, the governor of Tripoli sent soldiers to destroy the monastery of Maiphouq in 1439. As a result, Patriarch John al-Jajji moved his residence to the monastery of Qannoubin in the "holy valley" [wadi qadisha] in 1440. At this residence, dedicated to Our Lady, the Patriarchs were to remain for the next three centuries, living an austere and simple existence.
In 1444 the Holy See created an Apostolic Commissioner for the Maronites, Druze and Melkites. The most active among the missionaries in Lebanon was the Franciscan friar Gryphon who had studied Arabic and Syriac in Jerusalem and who chose to live and work among the Maronites. He constantly traveled through the mountain villages from 1455 to 1469 building new churches there. He enjoyed the complete confidence of Patriarch Peter al-Hadathi who encouraged him to preach in all the Maronite parishes and monasteries.
On the other hand, Friar Gryphon also sought to Latinize some Maronite liturgical practices, but this was met with resistance from the Maronite clergy. However, on a mission to Rome, Friar Gryphon wrote a letter to the Maronites affirming their faith and their perpetual union with the Holy See. He also noted that the Maronites frequented the churches of the Franks, celebrating at their altars with the same articles and making the sign of the cross the way the Franks did
The Maronite areas enjoyed some tranquility in the second half of the fifteenth century. Christians gathered together in large numbers. The village of Hadsheet alone had twenty priests. In the churches of Besharri, there were as many altars as days in the year. Over one hundred monasteries were scattered over the mountain. Peace, although relative, led to prosperity. As a consequence there was a development of intellectual and spiritual life. Schools multiplied and churches were augmented. The historian Patriarch Stephen Doueihi claims that at that period there were 110 Maronite manuscript copyists.
The peace that Maronites enjoyed during this period was relative and intermittent. The mouqaddimin were not always able to protect their compatriots from the tyrannical measures that were decreed. In a report sent from Qannoubin to the Holy Father in 1475 by the Papal legate, Brother Alexander of Arioste states: "In the midst of this nation [Maronite] live the Saracens . . . Their tyranny knows no rest; also, in parts of Lebanon, there is only desolation, provoking tears. Under the pretext of raising a certain tribute that they call gelia, they [the agents of the authority] despoil the poor mountain people of all that they have; afterwards, they beat them with rods, inflicting all sorts of torments to extort from them what they do not have. Against these vexations, there is only one recourse possible, apostasy. Many might have fallen if it had not been for the charity of their pious Patriarch [Peter ibn Hassan] who came to their aid. Dismayed at the peril to the souls of his sheep, he gave over all the revenues of his churches to satisfy the greed of the tyrants. The door of the patriarchal monastery was walled up; sometimes he was obliged to hide in caves hollowed out of the earth.
Oftentimes it was the patriarchs who were the focus of persecution. Patriarch David of Hadsheet was put to death by Sultan Qalaoun in 1282, and Patriarch Gabriel of Hajoula was burned at the stake near Tripoli in 1367. In a letter to Pope Leo X of March 8, 1514, Patriarch Simon declares: "We pray to God that during your days, we are liberated from the jurisdiction of the infidels who devour us, crush us and inflict on us taxes, very heavy tributes, affronts, persecutions and blows."
Gabriel Ibn al-Qilai'i
The figure who dominates Maronite History of the fifteenth century is that of Gabriel ibn al-Qilai'i. He was born in 1450 in the village of Lehfed in the province of Jebail. During his mission to Lebanon, Friar Gryphon chose him along with two other Maronites to enter the Order of St. Francis. After their religious profession at Jerusalem, all three went to Venice and Rome to complete their studies. Returning to Lebanon, Brother Gabriel instructed the people in the faith and wrote against the Jacobite or Monophysite heretics [those who say there is only one nature in Christ]. He excelled in the composition of zajaliat [a type of popular poem]. He composed and translated into Arabic many works of theology, history and canon law. In 1507 he was consecrated Bishop of Nicosia for the Maronites of Cyprus and remained in his See until his death in 1516.
Bishop al-Qilai'i defended vigorously the perpetual faith of the Maronites against accusations he found in his reading of Latin sources. He exercised a profound influence on the life of the Maronite Church, but also furthered the Latinization of Maronite litugry and discipline.
The Rule of the Ottomans
In 1516, the Ottomans, under the leadership of Selim I conquered Syria and Lebanon. The region was divided into three pashaliks: Damascus, Aleppo and Tripoli. The pasha of Tripoli had the responsibility to watch over the seacoast, the region of the Nosairis (Alawits), Lebanon and the grand coastal route leading to theinterior. In 1660, a new pashalik of Sidon was created to watch over the South of Mount Lebanon.
The historian, Bishop Pierre Dib observes that the history of Syria and Lebanon during this period can be summarized in this way: "administrative anarchy, a series of intrigues and quarrels among the pashas, indigenous dynasties, a chain of extortions, vexations and killings".
The Ottomans did not have the force to remove small local dynasties maintained by individual emirs. Rather, they considered them as vassals and expected them to pay taxes or miri, to furnish a military contingent, and not to encroach on territories directly exploited by agents of the Sultan. Under these conditions, the sultan permitted them to ransom their own subjects, to fight among themselves, to perpetuate a state of anarchy which would make the subjection of the region easier.
At this time the Maronites, massed in the northern part of Lebanon, belonged politically to the rule of Tripoli. However, they continued to be governed directly by their mouqaddamin. The role of the mouqaddamin consisted principally in raising the tax. They were subcollectors under the Moslem collector appointed by the sultan. About 1655 the government of a significant Maronite district, that of Besharri, was conferred on the Metouali or Shiite family of Hamada, which resulted in a number of Maronites fleeing to the south of Nahr Ibrahim and to the villages of the coast. The first Hamada governors were just and good administrators, but their successors adopted an entirely opposites direction, and imposed much oppression. Many Maronites were forced to emigrate and a majority of them took refuge in the district of Kesrawan.
The Pontifical Mission of 1578
In the 15th and 16th centuries contacts between the Holy See and the Maronite patriarchs continued. Missionaries and papal legates continued to be sent to Lebanon. Often, they brought with them gifts of Roman altar vestments and furnishings. In the pontifical letters that were sent one can determine time and again the particular importance that the Popes attached to the adoption of certain rites and usages of the Latin Church, especially in the administration of the sacraments. And so the way was prepared for a systematic Latinizaton that would be accomplished inthe succeeding centuries.
In 1578 Papal legates John Baptist Eliano, S.J. and Thomas Raggio, S.J. were sent to the Maronites. They brought with them a Papal Bull addressed to the Maronite Patriarch. After acknowledging the faith of the Maronites, Pope Gregory XIII requests that the Maronites should follow the Roman tradition in not adding references to Christ in the Trisagion, in having only Bishops administer the sacrament of Confirmation, and in not giving the Eucharist to children under the age of reason. The Holy Father closes by saying that he is going to send Arabic translations of the decrees and canons of the Council of Trent, and a catechism for use of pastors. We might note that the changes advocated by the Holy Father were of longstanding liturgical practice in the Maronite tradition.
After meeting with the Maronite Patriarch, the Papal legates sought to examine the liturgical, canonical and theological books used by the Maronites. Father Eliano proceeded to censor and burn the books he considered contained errors. He has been accused by the Maronites of destroying many precious manuscripts important for the history of the nation. In fact, Patriarch Stephen Douaihi, noting that Arabic words often have many meanings difficult to understand, claims that Eliano was not a scholar in Arabic. Douaihi further observes that Eliano did not distinguish books accepted by the Maronites as contrasted to those of the Roman rite. On the other hand, Eliano's behavior is defended by the Jesuit scholar, Louis Cheiko.
Father Eliano had thought of building a seminary in Tripoli, but decided against it because of the persecutions and difficulties the Maronites suffered there. He decided that Rome was the only place. He asked that six students be sent to study in Rome, but only two were sent, Gabriel Adniti from Mount Lebanon, and Gaspar of Cyprus.
On his return to Rome, Father Eliano reported on the condition of the Maronites, praising their tradition and obedience to the Holy See and their joyful acceptance of the faith. Eliano told the Holy Father that, because some heretics were intermingled among the Maronites, some errors had infiltrated among them from foreign books and therefore the Maronites were employing improper customs. The Holy Father was happy with the report and thanked God for keeping the faith among a faraway people who knew neither the language nore the customs of Rome.
It would seem that Eliano reported on other Maronite practices that he considered objectionable and that should be surrendered. He stated that Maronites use both leavened and unleavened bread and add salt, that the deacons receive the Eucharist under both species, that the celebrant gives Communion to people from his own host, that there are no statues in their churches, and that they do not kneel in their churches. (We note that these are traditional practices among the Eastern churches.)
The Maronite position regarding the first visit of Papal legates Eliano and Raggio can be summarized best by citing the letter written by Patriarch Michael Ruzzi to Cardinal Caraffa, the Cardinal-Protector of the Maronites, dated August 25, 1678: "Since, my brother, there may be someone who will write to you that there are some words found in our books opposed to the holy Church, we accept only what the holy Church accepts, and whatever errors are found in some copies would have crept in and been inserted in them from the books of nations which are near us and from a long time ago. My brother, remove all suspicion concerning our rectitude; we were founded from antiquity in the faith of the Holy Apostolic Roman Church which we have always embraced; and we do not speak to you merely with our lips, but with our lips and hearts, may God be our witness."
Pontifical Mission of 1580
In 1580 Pope Gregory XIII sent the Jesuits John Baptist Eliano and John Baptist Bruno to Lebanon as his legates. They brought with them many religious articles including a number of books. Because of the need for printed books for Syriac speaking Christians, the Holy Father had established a Syriac printing press in Rome. Among the books that were published and brought by the legates was a catechism printed in karshuni [Arabic written in Syriac letters], which had been composed by Fr. Bruno and translated by Fr Eliano. It was modeled after the one composed by Peter Canisius after the Council of Trent, and it advocated many of the sacramental practices of the Roman Church. Other publications included a book on the decrees of the Council of Trent, a book on the heresies of the Jacobites and the Nestorians, and translations of the Imitation of Christ and the prayers of the Latin Mass.
The Papal legates also brought with them 300 chalices, vestments, molds for making hosts, vessels for the Holy Oils, rosaries and pious images. Cardinal Caraffa, the Cardinal-Protector of the Maronites, recommended that the legates introduce the rosary first in the monasteries, and later they were to found contraternities in different localities. It is probable that the gifts of molds for hosts hastened the use of unleavened bread among the Maronites.
The legates were advised that their highest priority was to hold a synod at which the new catechism was to be accepted, and salutary decrees in confrmity with the Council of Trent were to be passed for the purity of faith and the improvement of discipline.
The Maronite Synod of 1580
On August 15, 1580 at Qannoubin, the Patriarchal residence in the Valley of the Saints, the Maronite synod opened with the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Michael el-Ruzzi in the presence of the papal legates, bishops, and a crowd of 2,200 notables, ecclesiastics, and faithful. The catechism brought by Eliano and Bruno was adopted by the assembly. The synod went on to affirm the teachings of the Council of Trent. They also accepted the addition of the filioque [the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son] to the Nicene Creed. The addition of the phrase "Who was crucified . . ." to the Trisagion was outlawed.
The Synod accepted the use of both the Latin and Eastern formulas for Baptism. It advised that while it was customary to use triple immersion in Baptism, in necessity, a single immersion or infusion suffices (in fact, the practice of infusion slowly gained acceptance). The Synod declared that the Bishop was the minister of Confirmation and that it was most appropriate that this sacrament be given to those who have reached the age of reason. We might note that it was about this time that Maronite rituals began to have rubrics inserted reserving Confirmation to the Bishop.
The synodal chapter dealing with the Eucharist cited the text for the consecration of the Eucharist from the Roman Missal. The synod stated that while it was permissible to give Communion to infants, it was in no way necessary for salvation. Since there is the danger of irreverence, "we discern that there is merit in following the custom of the Roman Church". In 1577 the distribution of Communion to infants was a universal practice in Lebanon. While Pope Gregory XIII exhorted the Patriarch against this practice, he did not formally forbid it. Although the Synod of 1580 speaks against it, the practice did not stop for several decades. The synod also recommended the Roman formulas for sacramental absolution and for Extreme Unction.
All in attendance publicly approved the declarations of the Synod. The papal legates asked and received permission from the Patriarch to tour the country and promulgate the decrees of the Synod. The legates also took this opportunity to distribute the catechism they had brought with them. Schools were founded for children, and we are told that Fr. Eliano began to teach the Latin language at Qannoubin. It was also at this time that Fr. Eliano was able to send four more students from among the Maronites to study in Rome.
The Maronite College in Rome
Perhaps one of the most important results of the Papal legations to Lebanon in 1578 and 1580 was the founding of the Maronite College in Rome. Patriarch Michael el-Ruzzi had asked Pope Pius V in 1568 to establish a house in Rome as a school for Maronite students to learn theology so that on their return they would better serve the Maronites. However, at first, students were not sent. The two students who came in 1579 were put in the school for Neophytes in Rome. Four more students came in 1581 and joined the others. Eight more were sent in 1583, and four came from Aleppo in 1584. On February 9, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII erected a guest house in Rome for the Maronites and set aside 200 ducats as a pension for its support. In 1584, due to the urging of Cardinal Caraffa, Pope Gregory XIII converted the guest house into the Maronite College, exclusively for Maronite seminarians and for the priest faculty that would care for them. Later that year Pope Gregory XIII added to the yearly income of the College, as did Pope Sixtus V. Cardinal Caraffa left his entire fortune to the College.
The impact and importance of the Maronite College cannot be underestimated. Students of the College were responsible for the spreading of knowledge in Europe about the East including its language, history, religions and institutions. From the College were graduated scholars whose works have been precious aids to European Orientalists. Besides returning to their country with many elements of Western culture, the Maronite alumni were of benefit to their compatriots by starting a renewal of intellectual activity in Lebanon. This movement reached its fullness with Patriarch Stephen Douaihi and the Assemanis. From Rome many alumni were attracted to France at the beginning of the 17th century and introduced Oriental studies there, thus spreading knowledge about Eastern Churches and cultures.
With the establishment of the Maronite College, Rome was in a position to learn more accurately the customs and traditions of the Maronites. On the other hand, a great number of patriarchs and bishops of the succeeding centuries were graduates of the Maronite College, and therefore attuned to the mind of Rome.
The students of the College were instrumental in printing liturgical books in Syriac. The first was a Book of Offices for the Dead and was published in Rome in 1585 with the financial help of Pope Gregory XIII. In 1592, George Amira, a student of the Maronite College and later a Patriarch, produced a Missal in Syriac at the Medici Press in Rome. In the back of the Missal was the life of St. Maron taken from the Syriac account of Theodoret as well as prayers for the blessing of holy water. At first, the use of this Missal was forbidden by the Maronite Patriarch Sergius el-Ruzzi because the one who had been assigned the final examination of the Missal, a Fr. Thomas Terracina O.P., replaced the traditional words of Eucharistic institution of the various Maronite anaphoras with those of the Roman Missal. He had also altered the meaning of the words of the Epiclesis [the calling down of the Holy Spirit in oblation]. All of this had been done without the knowledge of the Pope or the Patriarch. Although the Patriarch eventually agreed to the use of the Missal out of necessity, this Missal was not accepted everywhere, since the Synod of 1736 had to suppress the use of arbitrary consecratory formulas.
Pontifical Mission of 1596
In 1596 Pope Clement VIII decided to send another mission to the Maronites. The Jesuits Jerome Dandini and Fabius Bruno were chosen. They were to affect any reforms they deemed appropriate, to see to it that the Maronite students who returned from Rome were properly used, and to choose more good students to be sent to Rome.
After meeting with the Patriarch, Fr. Dandini traveled throughout Lebanon and leaves an extensive description of the customs of people. He discovered that the people are pious and have a simple and ardent faith. They highly respect their priests and when they meet a cleric they kiss his hand and ask for his blessing. The women are held in high regard, and there is no scandal among them. Dandini describes the celebration of the Maronite Divine Liturgy noting that the laity have a great part in the chanting. The laity are given the Eucharist under both species.
Dandini goes on to observe that the priests and people alike assemble to recite the Divine Office. Secular and religious gather at midnight for Matins, and there is always a large number of lay people present. During the Lenten fast the Maronites eat nothing until a few hours before sunset. They abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays from meat and dairy products. They also fast twenty days before Christmas and fifteen days before the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Assumption. He notes that the Maronites do not have holy water at the entrances of their churches.
The Synods of 1596
At the urging of the Papal legates, a Maronite Synod was held in September of 1596. The doctrinal and liturgical decrees of the Synod were a reiteration of those of 1580. In addition, the Synod called for the use of only unleavened bread in the Divine Liturgy. It advocated the use of the Roman formulas for the sacraments. Nevertheless, this prescription was not put into practice universally, and the synod of 1736 gave the option of using either the Roman or the Eastern formulas. The Synod called for the exclusive use of the Missal printed in Rome in 1592; however, as we have noted, this Missal gained only very slow acceptance. The synod introduced the holy days and feasts of the Roman calendar, including Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi.
While the Synod of 1596 again called for the Bishop to be the minister of Confirmation, the Maronite scholar Abraham el-Haqlani observes that some priests still confirmed infants as late as 1654. Many of the ancient rituals still presented the rite of Confirmation in conjunction with Baptism, and these rituals continued to be used in a number of churches. The same can be said regarding giving Communion to infants which continued at least until the middle of the 17th century. A second synod was held in November, 1596 to approve six canons dealing with discipline and practice which were to be added to the previous synod. They included a declaration that it was not necessary for secular priests to be married, since celibacy is a more perfect state. The synod also called upon the Bishops to live in their dioceses rather than be grouped together at the Patriarchate. However, this injunction was not implemented until after the synod of 1736.
The Process of Latinization
The actions of the Papal legates and the Synods of 1580 and 1596 give us graphic examples of the attempted Latinization of Maronite liturgical practices. As we have seen, elements of Latinization can be traced back to the time of the Crusades. However, at that time the practices were superficial, limited to such secondary points as the wearing of ring and miter by prelates, the manner of making the sign of the cross, the use of bells, unleavened bread, and Western altar furnishings. Even these changes did not become universal. With the Synods of 1580 and 1596 we see an attempt to give canonical and ritual legitimization to a systematic process of Latinization. This does not mean that there was an intentional policy on the part of the Roman Church to Latinize another tradition. Rather, we should recall that in this period after the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the holding of the Council of Trent, there was a desire to ensure ritual correctness seemingly through uniformity of practice.
Although conferring the three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist at the same time was the ancient tradition of Christian Initiation in both the Western and Eastern Churches, as time went on the Roman Church had introduced the practice of conferring Confirmation by the bishop and the Holy Eucharist only after the age of reason. The Churches of the East had continued the ancient practice. It would seem that the Papal legates felt that the Roman practice should be favored and supersede the Maronite practice as a better way of conferring the sacraments. In the same way, preference was given to the Roman sacramental formulas as a better way to ensure ritual correctness. Ironically, the Maronite College of Rome also had a decisive influence on the Latinization of Maronite practice. Its students were anxious to follow the idea of their teachers and the customs of the center of Christendom.
On the other hand, the Maronites were anxious to show their fidelity to the Roman Church and their gratitude for its support and concern. Even so, decades and sometimes centuries passed before these Latinizations went into practice. And there were certain proposals that the Maronites actively resisted. It should also be noted that most of the Latinizations dealt with externals, and the essence of the Maronite tradition remained unaffected.
The 17th century was a transitional one in Maronite Church history. While two synods were held in 1598 and 1644, they were not assembled in the presence of Papal legates, but called and presided over by the Patriarchs themselves. It was during this time that the declarations regarding liturgy and practice of previous synods and of Papal legates were either implemented or disregarded. During this period there was a steady stream of correspondence between the Holy See and the Patriarchate regarding the matters studied by the previous synods and current problems.
The Synod of 1598
Patriarch Joseph el-Ruzzi convoked a synod in 1598 which met in the village of Beit-Moussa. Besides re-affirming previous decrees regarding Baptism and Christmation, it made confession by the faithful obligatory three times a year: at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. It was not permitted to have baptismal godparents from a heretical or schismatic community, nor was one allowed to receive the Eucharist in another community. The words of institution in the Divine Liturgy were to be only those found in the Missal of 1592 (that is, the words taken from the Roman Missal).
Marriage with non-Catholics was forbidden. The Synod forbade marriage after subdiaconate, which was another imitation of the Roman practice. Maronite tradition did not forbid marriage until diaconate. In fact, this synodal canon was never put into practice.
An innovation from this synod was the canon making the vigils of Epiphany, Purification, Ascension, Pentecost, Transfiguration, Exultation of the Holy Cross, and All Saints, days of fast. Heretofore, vigils were unknown in the East as days of fast.
In addition to the above canons, Patriarch Joseph el-Ruzzi instituted other laws to correspond more closely the practice of the Roman rite. He permitted bishops to eat meat (heretofore they had abstained always), and allowed the eating of fish and drinking of wine during Lent. He also dropped the penitential week of Niniveh and shortened the fast before the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Dormition from thirty days to fifteen days, and before Christmas from forty days to twenty days.
Patriarch el-Ruzzi also promulgated the Gregorian calendar in 1606. It seems that the Roman students had something to do with its introduction into Lebanon. With its inception, the Western feasts of Corpus Christi and St. Joseph were formally accepted. However, the calendar was accepted only in Syria at first. In Cyprus and elsewhere the difficulties were such that the Julian calendar continued to be used. It was also at the beginning of the 17th century that the Maronites abandoned counting the years from the era of Alexander the Great and began dating from the Christian era.
The reaction among the Maronites against these innovations was so great that Pope Paul V in a letter in 1610 to Patriarch John Makhlouf, successor of Patriarch Joseph, declared that the Holy See permits the return of the former customs in order to pacify the spirit of the people. However,as time went on the innovations became accepted practice.
Maronite Practice in the 17th Century
The Maronite life-style of this time is reported by two Western voyagers, John Cotovicus and Francois de Breves. Cotovicus, who traveled to Jerusalem and the Middle East in 1598 and 1599, reports that the Patriarch of the Maronites has the title Patriarch of Antioch and has ten suffragan bishops, who have no dioceses of their own. He mentions that the Maronites use western practices such as bells, miter, ring and unleavened bread. But they also retain eastern customs such as married clergy, communion to infants, the faithful receive the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine, and Easter is kept according to the ancient manner.
Francois de Breves gives us a description of a patriarchal divine liturgy at Qannoubin in 1605. He notes that the Maronite Liturgy is similar to that of the Roman, with the exception that neither the priests nor the people ever kneel during the divine service. We are told that the Patriarch lived in simple poverty , and was loved and revered as a "demi-god", because of the candor and sanctity of his life. The monks in Lebanon never ate meat and lived on roots, beans and fruits. Also, at that time, there were 600 villages in Lebanon under the rule of the Patriarch.
In 1609, the Bishops unanimously elected John Makhlouf Patriarch. He was noted for his deep piety and heroic virtue and supposedly had a vision when he was in the province of Kesrawan. In a letter dated October 7, 1610, Pope Paul V stated that since he has heard that the Druze Emir Of Lebanon, Fakhr-ed-din II, was an enemy of the Turks and was favorable toward the Christians, the Maronites should cultivate his friendship to gain his protection.
During the time of Ottoman rule, the political fortunes of Lebanon depended on the strength of the alliances that were formed among the various Lebanese feudal families, and the power of the pashas (governors) who had jurisdiction over Lebanon, such as the pashas of Damascus and Tripoli, and later of Saida. In the latter part of the 16th century the Ma'an, a Druze family in the Shouf, increased its power base among the emirs in Lebanon. The apex of its power was reached during the reign of Fahkr-ed-din II (1598 - 1635). He extended his rule far beyond Lebanon to the prejudice of the neighboring emirs and pashas. When threatened with an attack from the pasha of Damascus, he fled to Florence in Italy where he remained with Cosmo de Medici (1613- 1618), and visited Pope Paul V. He developed ties with the Maronite scholars who resided in Italy, and later, one of the them, Abraham el-Haqlini, served as his intermediary before the court of the Medicis.
Fahkr-ed-din returned to Lebanon, consolidated his rule and increased the prosperity of Lebanon through encouraging Western culture and trade with Europe. With a prosperity and peace unknown up to that time, arts and letters flourished in Lebanon.
Fahkr-ed-din was very tolerant and favorable to the Christians. In regard to the Maronites, he left all their affairs up to the Patriarch. In fact, at times, 20,000 Maronites fought in his army. His principal adviser and aide was the Maronite, Abou-Nader el-Khazen. (There are some who claim that Fahkr-ed-din converted secretly to Christianity, but there is no factual evidence to support this).
Fahkr-ed-din aspired to achieve complete independence, but was abandoned by his allies and defeated by his enemies. He was accused of various charges by the neighboring Turkish rulers and was beheaded in Istanbul on the orders of Sultan Murad IV in 1635.
While religious tolerance and peace existed in the areas where Fahkr-ed-din had exercised his authority when he was in power, after his fall reprisals by his enemies and rivalries among his followers destroyed his work and unleashed new bloody battles in Lebanon. The Metoualis, especially, supported by the pashas of Tripoli, attacked th