Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Monastery of Mar Musa Al-Habashi
DAMASCUS COUNTRYSIDE -- There, in a rugged valley within al-Qalamoun Mountains, stood the Monastery of Mar Musa al-Habashi as a witness on the Syriac civilization and a tourism destination for those who seek peace, contemplation, calmness and beauty.
According to local inhabitant Abdo Khenshat, the Monastery was named after St. Moses the Abyssinian, the son of a king of Ethiopia who left his country looking for the kingdom of God. He traveled to Egypt and then to the Holy Land in Palestine before he became a monk and lived in Qara, to the north of al-Nabk region in Damascus Countryside, and then as a hermit not far from there in the valley of what is today the monastery. He was martyred by Byzantine soldiers.
The Arabic inscriptions on the Monastery walls indicated that the church was built in the Islamic year 450 (1058 AD). In the fifteenth century the monastery was partly rebuilt and enlarged, he added.
The church is divided into two parts; a nave with two aisles and is illuminated by a high eastern window and the second part is the sanctuary, which contains the altar and the apse and is separated from the rest of the church by a stone and wooden chancel screen. Three layers of frescoes can be seen on the ornamented walls. The first layer dates back to the middle of the 11 century, the second belongs to the end of the 11 century and the third from the 13 century.
Great icons and images covered the church walls such as the image of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the four evangelists are painted above the four columns looking upwards to copy a heavenly page with Syriac letters, ten virgins carrying lamps, in addition to images of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary and John the Baptist.
The monastery was used to monitor the road between Damascus and Palmyra before the coming of monks in the 16 century.
The monastery includes a huge library rich of Arabic, Syriac and religious books, manuscripts and rare heritage books.

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