This well-known shrine in Lebanon was born from the idea in 1904 of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed by Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, on the proposal of the Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoyek (1899-1931) and of the then apostolic delegate to Lebanon, Carlos Duval, and will be completed in May 1908.
This monument, it is wrong to forget, was offered by a French benefactress, designed by Durenne on the model of the Virgin of Catherine Labouré and set up by Giot . A narrow path led at the time to the Statue of the Virgin from where you can admire the landscape of the Lebanese coast from Aamchit in the North, to the South of the Lebanese capital and obviously the famous bay of Jounieh.
This narrow path still exists , it is in particular the one who traverses the mountain located at the foot of the sanctuary, better known under the name of Darb el Sama hiking trail .
At the base of the pedestal of the statue of the Virgin, the original chapel of the place, more intimate , where many pilgrims gather, sometimes occasional and from different religions, and it is indeed a stopover for tourists.
The places are particularly known for the commemoration of the various feasts of Mary , starting the month of May and obviously, August 15 of each year, due to the plenary indulgence granted by Pope Pius X in relation to Our Lady of Lourdes, this explains why many people make the pilgrimage on foot, sometimes even from beyond Beirut, over distances of more than 40 km, something quite rare, we must admit, the Lebanese and the Lebanese being rather used to automotive comfort.
Other ecumenical events for the various Christian communities in Lebanon, including the famous celebration of a mass for young people by Pope John Paul II on May 10, 1997, took place there. Behind the Statue of the Virgin, the Maronite Church of Harissa, with a rather original style, where the major religious festivals of this community are celebrated.
Note that the concrete building has suffered from the ravages of time due to its rather revolutionary architecture at the time of its construction in the 60s – 70s and the construction equipment presented several serious fractures raising fears of its collapse and requiring the closure of the religious building and its urgent restoration, restoration completed this year.
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Note: Other later statues are found on the Lebanese coast, including that of Maghdouché near the city of Saïda in southern Lebanon but they are however considered less accessible due to their geographical location and the events that took place during the civil war.
In Image: On the hiking trails between Jounieh and Harissa