Entering Saint Antoine de Qozhaya is like stepping into more than a thousand years of religious history that has made the monastery famous. The monastery is still active today and home to around a dozen Maronite monks, making it the perfect destination to explore the natural wonders of Qadisha while following in the footsteps of the saints who have inhabited the region.
Constructed in the 4th century by Saint Hilarion to pay tribute to Saint Anthony the Great, the Saint Anthony Qozhaya Monastery, along with the Qannoubine Monastery, are regarded as the oldest monasteries in the valley. The Saint Anthony Qozhaya Monastery is also widely renowned, having served as the seat of the Maronite patriarchate during the twelfth century and as a Generalate for the Maronite order between 1708 and 1723.
At its peak in the nineteenth century, the monastery welcomed some 300 monks and in 1926, the museum gathered religious clothes, various manuscripts and even weapons that Qozhaya was born with and that date back to 1584. A small hostel, which was built in 2008, will also delight visitors that are looking for peace and a change of scenery.
At 950 meters above sea level the monastery seems as if it is at the intersection of heaven and earth. It is also the ideal starting point for a stroll through the lush nature of the Qadisha valley.
The etymological origin of Qozhaya, although it holds heavy debate, is Syriac and it means the "treasure of life".
There are many treasures to discover in this monastery as it holds the first print shop in the Middle East in the monastery museum and the church itself is carved out of the rock. If you intend to visit, you will surely get the chance to see the monks in prayer or even attend a religious service.
Those with a courageous heart will venture into the cave located a few steps from the church, nicknamed "the cave of the mad." The leftover chains were used to chain people that came to treat their mental illness.
You can easily reach the monastery by car from the village of Bcharré.
Your visit will also be an opportunity to learn about the two emblematic saints of the region: Saint Charbel and Saint Rafka.
Father Charbel Abdel Massiah, in charge of welcoming visitors, will be happy to talk to you when you meet him.