Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Grotto of Saint Marina in Lebanon.

 Life of Saint Marina the nun.

    Marina, born  Mariam, was the daughter of wealthy Christian parents. Marina's mother died when she was very young and she was raised as a devout  Christian by her father Eugenius. As her age of marriage drew near, her father wished to retire to the Monastery of Qannoubine in the Kadisha Valley of Lebanon after he had found her a husband. When Marina learned of her father's plan, she asked his permission to go and live with him in the monastery, as a monk, under the name of Marinos.
After ten years of prayer, fasting, and worship together her father died, leaving her alone. Marina further increased her asceticism and continued to conceal her identity as woman. One day, the abbot of the monastery sent her with three other monks to attend to some business for the monastery. As the journey was long, they were obliged to spend the night at an inn. Also lodging there was a soldier of the eastern Roman front. Upon seeing the beauty of the inn keeper's daughter the soldier seduced her and defiled her virginity, instructing her to say, It was the monk, Father Marinos, who has done this to her should she conceive a child.

After some time, the inn keeper's daughter became pregnant and, as it was agreed, she told her father that Father Marinos (Marina) was to blame. Upon hearing the story, the abbot fired Marina. When the inn keeper's daughter gave birth, he handed the child to Marina. She fed the child sheep's milk, provided by the local shepherds, and remained caring for him outside the monastery for ten years. Finally the monks convinced the abbot to allow Marina to return; he accepted, however he imposed heavy penalties upon her. She was to perform hard labor in cooking, cleaning and carrying water in addition to her regular monastic duties.
At the age of forty, Marina became ill. Three days later she died. While preparing the body for the funeral, the monks discovered that monk Marinos was in fact, a woman! The monks informed the abbot, who stood to her side and wept bitterly for the wrongs he had done. The abbot then called for the inn keeper and informed him that Marina was actually a woman. In his turn, The inn keeper went to where the body was lying and also wept for the pain and suffering he unjustly brought upon her. During the funeral prayers, one of the monks, who was blind in one eye, received full sight again after touching the body. God also allowed a devil to torment the inn keeper's daughter and the soldier. This caused them to travel to where the saint was buried. There they both confessed their iniquity in front of everyone and asked for forgiveness.

Grotto of Saint Marina the nun in Lebanon.

 It is located in the heart of the mountain, below the village of Deddeh , in the outskirts of Kalamoun and Rasmaska. It can be reached on foot, either marching down from Deddeh through the mountain slopes, or ascending from the Kalamoun through the olives fields. It appears as an oval white cavity, extended over 20m in surface, with 7m height and 5m deep, on the western slopes of the village of Deddeh, El-Koura, and on the north-east side of El-Kalamoun.

 Remains of frescoes on the external walls are still visible, as well as the remains of 13 paintings inside the grotto, that refer to two different eras: the first five are considered to be from the Byzantine era, and the last eight, from the Latin era (between the 12th  and the 13th  century). 

The biggest Fresco is that of Saint Demetrius, which includes also the life of Saint Marina (called Marinos).

1-Saint Demetrius.

  The original fresco depicts Saint Demetrius on his horse, with his name written inside the halo. Later on, in the Latin era, eight frescoes were painted over the original, that represent stages from Saint Marina’s life, who entered the monastery under the name of Marinos. These frescoes are:
1-Marina’s father enters the monastery.
2- He cries asking the blessing of the abbot to accept his daughter.
3- Marina in the monastery as a young man.
4- The repose of Marina’s father.
5-Marina went to collect the yields.
6-Marina is accused to be the boy’s father.
7-Marina feeds the boy in the grotto.
8-Marina's repose and her glorification as a Saint.

(These paintings were found by the researcher Broussier at 1926,  and were published in “Syria” magazine).

2-The Deisis.

 This fresco shows the Lord on the throne in the middle, and the most Holy Theotokos on His right, and Saint John the Baptist on his left, interceding for the salvation of mankind.  Around the haloes are the Greek letters which abbreviate the name of “Jesus Christ” and “Mother of God”, and next to them written “the Mother” in Latin and “John the Baptist”, in Latin.

3-The entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem,  or Zacchaeus the publican.

One of the less visible frescoes shows a small man climbing a tree, and is probably Zacchaeus the publican, who climbed a tree to see Jesus, because he was short. Or more probably, it is a sketch from the icon of the Entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem, where children are climbing trees to cut branches, to receive the Lord, and in the background goats and sheep are seen.

4-The Annunciation:

The Annunciation represents the Archangel Gabriel announcing for the Virgin Mary, her conception by the Holy Spirit of The Lord Jesus Christ.
 letters symbolizing the name of “The Virgin Mary”, “Mother of God” abbreviated in Greek are visible, with an expression above it :The annunciation of the Virgin Mary”, and above the angel his name in Latin “Gabriel”.
The white color was used in writing the Latin letters over the original icons, where as the Greek letters were written in dark colors.

5-Saint Marina the martyr.

This fresco represents Saint Marina the Martyr, holding a big hammer in her hand, beating the devil’s head, who was tempting her in prison, before accepting martyrdom for Christ; this act symbolizes her victory over him. The icon reveals that this is Saint Marina the martyr from Antioch Bisidia (part of Turkey today), who was martyred on the 17th of June, 270 A.D.  The fresco holds the name of “Saint Marina” in Greek letters. The stars shown on her shoulders symbolise virginity.
Bishop Macarius Ibn-El-Zaiim, the renowned studier, has reported in his book “Saints from our land”, the presence of a monastery in Al-Koura district, known in his days (1672), in the name of Saint Marina the nun, commemorated by the Church on the 12th of February, whereas Saint Marina the Martyr is commemorated on the 17th of July.
The monastery existed until the 16th century, as mentioned in a manuscript of a Bible, in Greek, preserved in the Church of Tripoli: Deacon Nasr-Allah, Al Cheikh Al Alam, Hanna son of Fakhr, donated this Bible to the monastery of Great Saint Marina, near El-Kalamoun, Tripoli, 1577 A.D)
(Archimandrite Romanos Jaouhar, “Al Kalimah” magazine,  Archdiocese of Tripoli 1981).

     Unfortunately, time and natural factors have severely damaged this blessed site, especially in the late civil Lebanese war.

Through the intercessions of Your Saints :
 Saint Marina the martyr, and Marina the nun,
 Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us.
Brief study of the Grotto of Saint Marina, Gladys Sassine.
Saint Marina the monk,(part2), Guitta Hourani.