Harissa is an important Lebanese pilgrimage site high above Jounieh, located at 650 meters (2130 feet) altitude from the coast. At a distance of 26 kilometres from the capital, Beirut, Mount Harissa overlooks the Bay of Jounieh, where a small church was built. Above the church a statue of the Virgin Mary was placed. We went up the hill by aerial lift — “Téléférique”. There’s a lovely view of Jounieh Bay as we go up the gondola.
OUR LADY OF LEBANON
The Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon is a Marian shrine and a pilgrimage site in Lebanon. Mary was a first-century Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, the wife of Joseph, and the mother of Jesus, according to the canonical gospels.
The shrine belongs to the Maronite Patriarchate who entrusted its administration to the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries since its foundation in 1904. It is one of the most important shrines in the world honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus. The shrine is highlighted by a huge 15-ton bronze and painted white statue of Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Lebanon or Notre Dame du Liban. The Virgin Mary stretches her hands towards Beirut. The 8 meters and a half long statue was made in Lyon.
The idea to build the shrine was a product of the celebration of the jubilee of the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Pope Pius IX’s Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, expressing the love of Lebanon by the Virgin Mary, and took the name Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon – Harissa.
The statue was made at the end of the 19th century and inaugurated in 1908. Inside the statue’s base there is a small chapel.
The Lebanese Christians as well as the Druze and Muslims have a special devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus. The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch named her the “Queen of Lebanon” in 1908 upon completion of the shrine.
It attracts both pilgrims and tourists. The views of Jounieh and the Mediterranean Sea are wonderful from the top of this hill. Some lovely Lebanese cedars are around the place. The cedar tree became a well-known symbol for Mary during the middle ages.
Lebanese Cedar (Cedrus Libani) is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region. The cedar of Lebanon tree is an evergreen with beautiful wood that has been used for high quality timber for thousands of years.
The Cedar of Lebanon was important to various ancient civilizations. The trees were used by the Phoenicians for building commercial and military ships, as well as houses, palaces, and temples. The ancient Egyptians used its resin in mummification, and its sawdust has been found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh designates the cedar groves of Lebanon as the dwelling of the gods to which Gilgamesh ventured.
Because of its significance the word Cedar is mentioned 75 times (Cedar 51 times, Cedars 24 times) in the Bible. It was also used by Romans, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians. The Lebanon cedar is mentioned several times in the Hebrew bible. Hebrew priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon cedar in the treatment of leprosy. Solomon also procured cedar timber to build the Temple in Jerusalem.
On August 6 every year, Christians celebrate the feast day of Christ’s transfiguration and the cedars of Lebanon have always been the place to celebrate this occasion. It is not known whether Christ’s transfiguration occurred in the cedars of Lebanon, but through tradition and due to the majesty and pure silence of the mountain peaks where they stand, one cannot but link Christ’s transfiguration with the cedars of Lebanon. The age of many of the cedar trees in Lebanon goes back hundreds of years prior to Christ’s incarnation.