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The sacredness of space and its values in the Maronite church in Lebanon : a fusion between liturgy and place.

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There exists only one manuscript about ecclesiastical Maronite ecclesiastical architecture (written in the 17th century by the patriarch Stephen el Dweihi) and there is no revised or subsequent work of reference, which this thesis aims to address. To this end, these were the critical questions investigated: This thesis begins by taking stock of the extant vestiges which, with a few exceptions, are confined to Mount Lebanon and north-east Lebanon namely in Byblos, Batroun, Bcharri, Koura, Keserwan, Matn. This area is characterized by a series of spurs and mountain tops, wild deep valleys and remoteness, and the architecture is rooted in this landscape. Its resources for construction are the materials at hand, and the buildings are usually located in villages on the spurs, and one finds that the Maronite ecclesiastical architecture is indistinguishable from the general secular and residential architecture. As such it is "grows" out of the land, is modest in size and scale, and is historically without belfry, i.e. a hidden architecture. While the general disposition of Christian churches is similar, Maronite vernacular houses and churches are block-like with flat roofs, stone walls, and very often with vaulted interiors and minimal of openings. The church is thus another house, rectangular and aligned east-west and is devoid of decoration; the sanctuary is usually apsidal with a minor aperture above the apex of the dome and below the vault of the nave. The particular characteristics of the Maronite church are its east-west orientation - parallel to the spurs which characterize the littoral Lebanon - the presence of a sustainable source of water, and an evergreen tree. The church was conceived for a standing form of worship and without physical barrier between the nave and the sanctuary; and the main and possibly sole source of daylight (but the open door) is the eastern aperture. The bima platform is located in the nave to reflect the monotheistic ideology adopted by the Maronites. Over the centuries, and despite the influences from the Roman Catholic Church, with which it is in full communion, the Maronite church has preserved its identity which is austere and, in particular, free of the 'dramatic mysteries' associated especially with the Baroque churches. Having studied Dweihi's manuscript and his 11 chapters on Maronite ecclesiastical architecture, this thesis asks whether these are still relevant? How can the manuscript be updated for contemporary interpretation towards a rooted modem Maronite ecclesiastical architecture? The architecture of Lebanon has fascinated at least three authors (Ragette, Liger Belair, and Abou Sawan) whose works date from the late 20th century and have become standard references. Others have documented various works on the Maronite people and their religion, but, not since Dweihi' s manuscript of the 17th century has an attempt been made at documenting and extending Maronite concepts for ecclesiastical architecture. Interestingly, Dweihi in his time was reacting to what he saw as a contamination of the Maronite church by Roman Catholic influences; this thesis was prompted by insensitive and ignorance in contemporary Maronite ecclesiastical architecture. The thesis is thus dedicated to proper custodianship of the heritage and the informed and sensitive design of new 'houses ' for Maronite worship.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2004.


Church architecture--Lebanon., Maronites--Lebanon., Theses--Architecture.