Beirut Berytus

Beirut, Lebanon is mentioned in many Syr. Orth. texts in connection with the St. Jude monastery and church. It was described by Zacharias Rhetor in his ‘Life of Severus’, the patr. of Antioch (512–38). Although Zacharias wrote originally in Greek, his text survives only in Syriac translation. The author narrates Severus’s conversion to Christianity while both he and Severus were studying at the famous School of Law in 487–91, and he gives a lively description of the lives of young Christians in 5th- cent. Beirut. He mentions four churches in Beirut among which was a ‘venerable church of the holy apostle Jude, brother of James who were both sons of Joseph’. It was located outside of Beirut and had a community of ascetics, priests, and monks. Different sources show that the community was anti-Chalcedonian. Severus himself in one of his letters reports that in 482–83, when Peter the Iberian, a popular anti-Chalcedonian figure in Palestine, passed by Beirut, he prayed in ‘the glorious church of the famous martyr and apostle Jude, brother of James who is buried in Berytus’. In the early Syr. Orth. tradition, therefore, Beirut’s church of St. Jude was known for being a martyrium church as well as having an anti-Chalcedonian stance. Medieval Syr. Orth. authors like Michael Raboand Bar ʿEbroyo support these claims. The monastery apparently survived the earthquake of 551 that destroyed Beirut entirely, including its famous Law School, although Michael Rabo in his Chronicle describes the effects of the earthquake without mentioning the church. It was probably rebuilt eventually by Syr. Orth. monks because in a 12th- cent. papal letter a church of St. Jude in Beirut is mentioned, which was put under the jurisdiction of the Latin bishop of the city. The church was destroyed by the army of Ṣalāḥ al-dīn al-Ayyūbī who occupied Beirut for ten years (1187–97), for when the German pilgrim Wilbrand of Oldenburg visited Beirut in 1211–12, he found only the tombs of Jude and his brother Simon in place of the monastery outside the walls of the city.

A Maronite presence in Beirut is mentioned for the first time in a papal confirmation of 1184. It reports that the Latin bishop of Beirut gave the Maronites a chapel with adjacent land (see Pringle). This may have been the church of Saint Georges located northeast of the city and cited by an anonymous Rhenan pilgrim in 1098. It is there, the pilgrim affirms, that long ago Saint George killed the dragon. Under the Ottomans in the 16th cent., the Maronites were in possession of that church with an adjacent cemetery where their bishops were buried (Duwayhī). In the course of the 17th cent. they lost this church, which became the mosque of al-Khidr. Another Maronite church was located within the walls of Beirut, but it was taken from them in 1571 by the ruling local emir Manṣūr ʿAssāf in the aftermath of his participation in the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus. ʿAssāf seized the church, but the Maronites did not leave, and they even named their first known bishop of Beirut a few years later, in 1577. Maronite bps. were named for Beirut but did not reside in the city, staying instead in different monasteries of the Kisrawān and the Matn districts near the capital. In 1736 the Council of Luwayza mentioned eight Maronite dioceses among which the Beirut diocese included the Matn, the Jurd, and the Gharb up to Jisr al-Qādī near Dāmūr. Around 1748, the emir Yūssif Murād Abillamā authorized the general abbot of the Antonine Order to build a monastery in old Beirut and Bp. Mikhāʾil Fādil built the small cathedral church of Saint Georges in 1753, which was renovated, destroyed, and rebuilt many times but still stands today in the center of Beirut. The Maronite see of Beirut was built by Bp. Tubiyā ʿAwn (1844–71) near the cathedral, and his successor Yūsuf al-Dibs (1872–1907) transferred it near al-Ḥikma School, where it still is today. The Lebanese civil war (1975–90) greatly affected the Maronite diocese of Beirut, which numbered 140 churches before 1975 but lost 62 during the war as a result of the evacuation of Christians from 60 villages.

As for the Syr. Orth., a new diocese was created in the 19th cent., when refugees from Diyarbakır, Mardin, and Ṭur ʿAbdin began to arrive in Lebanon, followed in the 20th cent. by those coming from Adana, Tarsus, and Edessa. Beirut also became an important center for the Syr. Cath. Church, which transferred its patriarchal residence from Mardin to Beirut under Patr. Ignatius Ephrem Raḥmani (1898–1929) and had its main seminary in Sharfeh. In the second half of the 20th cent. Beirut also became an episocopal see for the Chald. Church (with Raphael Bidawid as its most notable incumbent, between 1966 and 1989) as well as for the Ch. of E.

    Primary Sources

    • Abbeloos and Lamy, Gregorii Barhebraei chronicon ecclesiasticum. (Syr. and LT)
    • E. W.  Brooks, A collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch (PO 12.2; 14.1; 1919–1920).
    • Chabot, Chronique de Michel le Syrien. (Syr. and FT)
    • M.  Delpech and J. C. Voisin, ‘La mission en Cilicie de Wilbrand von Oldenburg en 1211–1212’, MUSJ 56 (1999–2003), 291–346.
    • Y.  al-Dibs, al-Jāmiʿ al-mufaṣṣal fī taʾrīkh al-Mawārina al-muʿassal (1905).
    • M.-A. Kugener, Zacharie le Scolastique. Vie de Sévère (PO 2; 1907), 5–115.
    • R. Shartūnī, Istiphān Duwayhī. Taʾrīkh al-Azmina (1890).

    Secondary Sources

    • T.  Abī ʿĀd, ‘Abrašiyat Bayrūt’, al-Manāra 1.2 (1992), 91–108.
    • Fiey, Pour un Oriens christianus novus, 69–70 and 179–80.
    • L. J.  Hall, Roman Beirut (2004).
    • Honigmann, Évêques et évêchés monophysites, 32–3.
    • R. J. Mouawad, ‘La mosquée du Sérail à Beyrouth: histoire d’un lieu de culte’, Tempora: Annales d’Histoire et d’Archéologie. Université Saint-Joseph 14–15 (2003–2004), 153–73.
    • D.  Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1993).
    • R.  Du Mesnil du Buisson, ‘Le lieu du combat de St. Georges à Beyrouth’, MUSJ 12 (1927), 251–65.


How to Cite This Entry

Ray Jabre Mouawad, “Beirut,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Beirut.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Ray Jabre Mouawad, “Beirut,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Beirut.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Mouawad, Ray Jabre. “Beirut.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Beirut.

A TEI-XML record with complete metadata is available at https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Beirut/tei.

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