The village of Maʿad is 14 km. northeast of Byblos (Jbeil), 52 km. from Beirut, 525 m. above sea level. The Church of Mar Charbel is built on the remains of a 1st-cent. temple to the Roman god Satrapos. The base of the temple, columns, and capitals were used in the building of a church dating from the 6th cent. At a later period, in the 12th or 13th cent., a substantial narthex was added to the W. end along with new vaulting.

At least two layers of decoration are painted on the walls of the church: 1. to the first period belong the wall paintings of the apse, and paintings on the northern wall of a small annex in the southeast corner of the church, at the end of the southern nave; 2. a large Dormition of the Virgin, on the southern wall of this same small room, belongs to the second period. Paintings of the second period also cover parts of the paintings on the northern wall.

In the apse, four evangelists stand on either side of a central crowned saint who has not been identified. On the northern wall of the annex are two more unidentified saints from the first period, accompanied by two donors, a male and a female. On this same wall and partially covering the saints underneath, is the large figure of an archangel, between two more saints, also unidentified. These latter saints, and a donor on the same wall, belong to the second period. Accompanying the twelve apostles and Christ, beside the Virgin’s bier, in the Dormition, are St. Dionysios the Areopagite, and also the Jew Jephonias, whose hands have been cut off by the archangel Gabriel. The donor of this painting is represented behind Jephonias.

All the wall paintings in Mar Charbel are inscribed in Syriac, in a mixture of Serṭo and Esṭrangela which sometimes contains Arabic words.

Isṭifān al-Duwayhī, Maron. patr. in the 17th cent., writes that Ḥanna al-Franjiyya, Bint al-Khabbaz, was buried in this church in 1243. This date corresponds to the style of the second group of paintings. The style of each layer of painting is distinctive. The hand of a 12th  cent. French painter has been identified in the first layer. The style of the second layer belongs to the Syr. Orth. tradition of Bahdeidat and Dayr Mār Mūsā al-Ḥabashī, in the 13th cent.

See Fig. 63.


  • E.  Cruikshank Dodd, Medieval Painting in the Lebanon (2001), 316–36.
  • N.  Hélou, ‘La fonction de l’annexe sud de l’église de Ma’ad’, Tempora. Annales d’histoire et d’archéologie 10–11 (1999–2000), 139–62.
  • L. Nordiguian and J.-C. Voisin, Châteaux et églises du moyen âge au Liban (1999), 395–6.
  • L.  Nordiguian and F. Chausson, Ma’ad. De Sadrapha au Christ (2000).
  • Y. Sader, Painted churches and rock-cut chapels of Lebanon (1997), 101–119.
  • M.  Tallon, ‘Peintures byzantines au Liban. Inventaire’, MUSJ 38 (1962), 294.

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