Mart Moura Church and Qaryat Moussa
||History of Kfarsghab - Mart Moura Church
Mart Moura Church is located to the East of Kfarsghab, above the source of the village and geographically at mid-distance between the three villages of Bqoufa, Kfarsghab and Bane. It is not to be confused with the Monastery of Mart Moura located below Ehden opposite to Kfarsghab and which witnessed the formation of the Lebanese Maronite Order at the end of the seventeenth century.
For the life of Mart Moura, please see at the end of this article.
It is proven historically that Mart Moura belonged to the extinct village of Qaryat Moussa. According to several historians (1), a Maronite Synod took place in this church in 1598 (2). The priest, Ibrahim of Qaryat Moussa, at the time of the 1598 Synod was an important aide of the then Patriarch Youssef
AlRizzi (3). AinTourini attributes wrongly another Synod gathered in this church in 1644 (4).
Here is what says about the 1598 Synod Father Youakim Moubarac
introducing his translation to French of the canons of the Synod: " …
We put into this translation a particular care due to the fact that Day`at
Moussa overlooks by some hundred meters the village where we were born. However,
we cannot help to have some doubt as to the precise location of this Synod. Mart
Moura's church, the generally assumed location for that synod celebration, is
well known and its patronal saint's day is still celebrated every year with the
fervent participation of the faithful from our village Kfarsghab, on September
24th. Also, we think that there lies our village of origin, before unknown
reasons to the local memory made us go down.
But my family acquired in the time of
my father a plot of land upper than Mart Moura. It is called Marg el-Dayr and it
belonged to the family Mousa. Its conversion into an orchard caused the cleaning
of an oratory in decline devoted to Saint Augustine. Would it be rather there
the place of celebration of the synod? I prefer to believe it because the place
in question is on the border of the famous village of Bqoufa, also ruined, but
from which we know that the prelates of the family Rizzi are originated,
prelates who led our Church in those times with three successive patriarchs. "
The merger of the villages of Qaryat Moussa and Kfarsghab
In 1519, the number of males residing in Qaryat Moussa totaled 9 males, which gives
around 60 inhabitants, when Kfarsghab population was of 14 males and 92 inhabitants (6). In 1571, the number of inhabitants in Qaryat Moussa increased to 79, and that in Kfarsghab decreased to 79. The two villages in 1571 became of the same size. The struggle between Maronites and Jacobites was at its height during the sixteenth century. Was that conflict the cause behind the shift in the population size ? Given the fact that the Synod for
strengthening the Maronite Doctrine was held in 1598 in Qaryat Moussa, could we suppose that this latter village was Maronite and Kfarsghab was Jacobite ?Or
rather the opposite?
It is possible that inhabitants of the village of Qaryat Moussa were accused of
being Jacobites from the end of the 14th century. The hermit Elisée of Hadath
accused by Gibrail Ibn Al Qalaii of being Jacobite lived in 1391 and was taught
by Farah, the priest of Qaryat Moussa (7). Later, in 1487, the jacobite priest
Nouh of Bqoufa (the future patriarch of Jacobites) attracted young Maronites,
notably Moussa and Hanna sons of Ibrahim Ibn AlHajj Moussa of Bqoufa and
Moussa of Qaryat Moussa (8). It is also possible that from 1495, with the death of
the Muqaddam (chief) of Bcharri, Abdul Mouneem, protector of Jacobites, these
latter began losing their influence in the region of Jebbet Bcharri.
Consequently, the Jacobites left the region of Ehden - Bqoufa, without
nevertheless disappearing completely, and they established themselves in
Hadchit, Hardine and Kfarhaoura. In defence of the Maronite Patriarch Mikhail Al
Rizzi (1567-1581) accused of being Jacobite because a native of Bqoufa, it
is explained that the Al Rizzi family lived in the higher part of Bqoufa and
that Jacobites lived only in the lower part of that village (9)
. And Qaryat Moussa is precisely on the border of this lower
part of Bqoufa; hence the assumption that some Jacobites lived in Qaryat Moussa.
In any case, the history of this period of struggle between Maronites and
Jacobites is very confused. Confusion was maintained by the Maronite historians
in their attempts to prove the loyalty of the Maronites to Rome.
Today, Mart Moura Church belongs to the village of Kfarsghab. It was restored in the 1990’s and is used once a year on Mart Moura’s day on the
24th of September. On that day, all the villagers in Kfarsghab participate in celebrating a mass, praying especially for the rest of the souls of the forebears of Kfarsghab buried in the cemetery located next to the church.
This fact allows us to advance that the modern Kfarsghab results from a fusion between Kfarsghab and Qaryat Moussa.
But why Qaryat Moussa disappeared ? Is it lack of water (ie a natural geological shift in the principal water source of this area from above Qaryat Moussa to below it) ? Or is it the political and economical circumstances of the immediate surrounding area after the disappearance of the important neighbouring village of Bqoufa in 1600 (10)?
When did it disappear? We think that the disappearing of Qaryat Moussa took place at the same period as Bqoufa’s in the beginning of the seventeenth
The Life of Mart Moura
The following information is based on the work of the great historian Father
Louis Cheikho sj and especially on his work Awliya" Allah fi Lubnan edited
in Beirut in 1914. Youakim Moubarac translated it to French and enriched its
contents and published it in his Pentalogie Antiochienne / Domaine Maronite -
Tome II - Volume I - year 1984 - Editor Cenacle Libanais - Beirut -
" ... This saint is venerated in Mayfouq and in Gebbet Bcharri. An old
monastery is dedicated to her there (11). Other shrines are dedicated to her in Bqoufa
(12), Rachiîne and in the country of "Akkâr, according to Fr Ibrahim
Harfouch, in the magazine Machreq V, 1902, pp. 894-995. The maronite calendar of
saints mentions her feast day on the dates of October 10th and of September
25th. It is also mentioned on the 3rd and on the 7th of May. Bollandists kept
the date of May 3rd (WHIZZ, II, 381; cf. KUE, I, 151).
Moura is a Christian from High Egypt married to a deacon called Tîmothée.
When Diocletianus (13) came to power and wanted to erase any trace of
Christianity, the governor Urban invited Timothée and his wife to embrace
paganism. They refused with courage, were crucified and died from slow death
around 283. It is also supposed that this martyrdom took place under Decius (14).
P.S. (from Youakim Moubarak) … Let us note regarding Saint Moura that the
author [Father Cheikho] does not take into account the splitting in two of
certain saint days : one during springtime and another after August 15th, this
latter feast is traditionnally dedicated to serve the hrissé, once the animals
devoted to this effect were fattened after getting down from the "Alpages"
[high mountain pastures]. It is the case in Kfarsghâb for the celebration of Mart
Moura; on May 3rd and September 25th. It is also the case of Mar Awtel celebrated on
June 2nd and, for the hrissé, on August 27th ... "
(1) Douaihi in Radd Al Touham cited by Dr. Antoine Daou in the Accounts of the First Seminar on Jebbet Bcharri History 1998– p. 276.
(2) The objectives of this Synod called for by the Patriarch Youssef AlRazzi from Bqoufa was to complete the work done in the previous Synods of 1595 and 1596 for the alignment of the Maronite Church practices with those of the Holy Roman See, banning definitively the Jacobism accusations that tarnished the reputation of his two predecessors.
(3) Douaihi in Tarikh Al Azminah by Abbot Boutros Fahd – p. 461.
(4) AinTourini in A Concise History of Mount Lebanon – p. 111 – according to him, this Synod was called for by the Patriarch Youssef Halib from Akoura. This Synod took place in fact in the Monastery of Mar Youhanna Hrash.
(5) Pentalogie Antiochienne / Domaine Maronite -
Volume 1 - Part 1 - Father Youakim Moubarac - Editor Cenacle Libanais - Beirut
1984 - p. 526
(6) Dr Issam Khalife in the Accounts of the First Seminar on Jebbet
Bcharri History 1998– p. 107.
(7) Bishop Youssef ElDebs - Al Jamii Al Moufassal Fi Tarikh Al Mawarinah Al
Mouassal - editor Dar Lahd Khater – 4th Edition 1987 - p. 154.
(8) Bishop Youssef ElDebs - Al Jamii Al Moufassal... Op Cit - p. 160.
(9) Bishop Youssef ElDebs - Al Jamii Al Moufassal... Op Cit - p. 188.
(10) AinTourini in A Concise History of Mount Lebanon – p. 65 – according to him, Bqoufa
disappeared because of very heavy snow seasons and political exactions.
(11) The Mart Moura Monastery in Ehden that witnessed the foundation of
the Lebanese Maronite Order at the end of the 17th
(12) Our present Mart Moura church of Kfarsghab ( ex Qaryat or Day ' at Moussa
church) which is located in the traditionally lower part of the extinct village
(13) Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (245-313 AD), born Diocles, was Roman
Emperor from November 20, 284 to May 1, 305.
(14) Gaius Messius Quintus Trajanus Decius (201- July 1, 251), Roman emperor
(249 - 251) . If the date of 283 AD mentionned is right, the martyrdom of Saint
Moura should then have taken place under the reign of Carus or his sons Carinus
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