The 50 km long valley is around 120 km from the capital Beirut. It is home to some of the oldest monasteries in Christendom. It is also known for the small cedar forest. The approximately 400 trees of the “Horsh Arz el-Rab” (“Cedars of the Lord”) are the remains of a once large population of cedars, the former export hit of Lebanon.
Sacred Valley and Cedar Forest of Lebanon: Facts
|Official title:||Wadi Qadisha (Sacred Valley) and Lebanon Cedar Forest (Horsh Arz el-Rab)|
|Cultural monument:||the around 35 km long Sacred Valley and the Qadisha Grotto, a place of meditation and prayer for centuries, with monasteries and hermitages such as Deir Mar Elishaa, Mar Antonios Qozaya and Qannoubin as well as the Chapel of St. Marina, burial place of 18 Maronite patriarchs; also the “cedars of God” (Arz el-Rab) at an altitude of 1950 m, remains of a cedar forest that once covered Lebanon with trees up to 1000 years old|
|Country:||Lebanon, Northern Lebanon|
|Location:||near Bscharré, southeast of Tripoli|
|Meaning:||one of the most important early monastic settlements and the remains of an extensive Lebanon cedar forest|
Sacred Valley and Cedar Forest of Lebanon: History
|1440-1790||Deir Qannoubin – as the seat of the Maronite patriarch|
|1607-10||Establishment of the first printing house in the Middle East in Deir Mar Antonios Qozaya|
|1695||Foundation of the Lebanese Maronite Monk Order in Deir Mar Elishaa (Monastery of St. Elias)|
|1848||Construction of a chapel in the middle of the “cedars of God”|
|1995||Opening of a museum in Deir Mar Antonios Qozaya|
Cedars and saints
The Gilgamesh epic pays their respects to them, and the mighty cedars of Lebanon are mentioned several times in the Bible. Despite their inaccessible altitude and the great distance from the coast, the cedar forests provided the coveted building material for the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The Phoenicians and Egyptians used mighty Lebanon cedars to build their ships, and Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon in the sixth century BC, made use of them and proclaimed in an inscription to his own glory: “I brought mighty cedars home to build, which I did fell with my own hands on Mount Lebanon. ”
The size and thickness of the trunks, the hardness and the fragrance of the wood made the Cedrus libani a coveted material in antiquity; their oil and resin were also used to mummify Egyptian pharaohs.
In the second century AD, it was the Roman Emperor Hadrian who was the first to take measures to protect the famous forests: he had felling lines and information about the tree population carved into rocks and boulder stones. Around 200 of these inscriptions have been recorded to this day and give an idea of the existence of the cedar forest in ancient times. In the following centuries Lebanon cedar, which has a longitudinally cracked bark, a flattened, umbrella-like crown and plate-like arrangement of needles, was used in large numbers for heating, coal extraction and lime kilns. In the Middle Ages, villagers cut trees to gain farmland, and during World War I the cedar wood was used to build the Tripoli-Haifa railway line.
From the once huge forests, only a few stands in hard-to-reach places have survived today. The most famous, known as the “Cedars of God”, are those at Bscharré. There are still 375 centuries-old cedars here, which – like four of them – can even live to be more than a thousand years old, with a trunk circumference of 14 meters and a height of up to 35 meters.
According to computergees, hundreds of new trees have been planted nearby in the past few decades to ensure the continued existence of the precious cedar forests. This is because cedars grow very slowly and take more than four decades to produce seeds. The cedar grove is surrounded by a wall that the British Queen Victoria had built in 1876 to protect the precious trees from hungry goats. In the middle of this cedar forest there is a chapel of the Maronite patriarch. Every August 6th, a mass for the protection of the cedar trees has been held here for more than a century and a half.
The long »Sacred Valley«, Wadi Qadisha, begins only a few kilometers away. In its steep rock walls, the washing water left natural caves and grottos, which have been chosen by monks of Christian denominations since the early Middle Ages as a place for a life of meditation and prayer. In the vicinity of these hermitages, several chapels and rock monasteries were built on the northeastern edge, among them the very prestigious Qannoubin Monastery. Parts of this monastery, in which the head of the Christian Maronites resided for three centuries, were carved into the rock wall. From there a steep path leads down into the gorge. In the immediate vicinity is the monastery of St. Anthony, where the first printing press of the Middle East was set up at the beginning of the 17th century. with the help of which Maronite monks printed those sacred writings, the outstanding specimens of which are now in the museum of the American University of Beirut. Along the old road from Bscharré to the “cedar grove of God” one reaches the Qadisha grotto, in which limestone formations grow as blunt stalagmites from floor to ceiling and pointed stalactites from ceiling to floor. In spring, an impressive, powerful waterfall gushes out of this grotto.