Happy Easter

The Convent of Our Lady of Seidnaya (located 27 km north of Damascus and dating back to 547) has an interesting story:

Justinian I, Emperor of Byzantium, came to this desert, where his army encamped and soon suffered thirst for lack of water. When they despaired, the emperor saw a beautiful gazelle off in the distance. He vigorously gave chase, hunting the animal until it tired and stopped on a rocky knoll and approached a spring of fresh water, but without giving the emperor the opportunity to shoot it. Suddenly, it transformed into an icon of Virgin Mary, which shone with a brilliant light. A white hand stretched forth from it and a voice said, "No, thou shalt not kill me, Justinian, but thou shalt build a church for me here on this hill." Upon his return, Justinian related what he had seen to his subordinates and ordered them immediately to draw up a plan for the contemplated church. After some time had passed and the architects were unable to resolve the problems of the plan, the Holy Virgin (the gazelle) reappeared to Justinian in a dream and confided a magnificent plan to him for a convent, of which she would be the Protectress. It is said that the basic structure of the convent follows this plan to this day. The convent soon gained such renown that it came to be ranked second only to Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage, and nuns from every corner of Syria, Egypt, and other lands flocked to it. (Text from Saidnaya.com)


sasa said...

Incredible! I learn so much from your posts Ayman, keep it up!

So Syria hosts the second most holy site in Christianity (Saidnaya) and the fourth most holy sit in Islam (the Umayyad Mosque).

Ayman said...

Thanks Sasa :)

I don't know if Seidnaya is considered the second "most holy" Christian site. However, for a long time, Seidnaya has been the second Christian place of pilgrimage in the East after Jerusalem (in the number of pilgrims). The town used to be the seat of the Patriarch of Antioch (but not any longer) and its Convent hosts the "Shaghoura Shrine" which contains one of four original icons of Virgin Mary drawn by St. Luke himself.

MOHAMADA said...

hallo Ayman ...

MMM said...

I visited Seidnaya and it's convent last year. There was a big group of pilgrims there at the time.

It's really beautiful and the sight of Seidnaya from the convent is a breath-taking one. I took some really nice pics there.

Thanks for bringing back those memories :)

Erika said...

Hi, Ayman - I have a really cute story about Seidnaya.

Friends (Jordanian, with family in Syria) here in Chicago have a family owned liquor/wine store, where the father and two cute sons work.

The oldest son went to Syria for a few weeks. Long story short: He visited Seidnaya at the end of his trip and met a woman there - an orphan who'd lived there all her life, and was now older but still living there and working at the convent - in her 20's. Completely by chance meeting.

They fell in love at first sight.

Many immigration wranglings, a couple years later, she lives here in Chicago with the son (now her new husband) and their new baby. :-)

The entire story, with all the details is SO cute and romantic, N and I followed all the developments anxiously as they were unfolding. Needless to say, everyone involved was VERY happy!

amr said...

Hi Ayman,

What a nice photo. I've been to Sednaya-Maalola with school about ten years ago and we took similar photos from the balcony of Our Lady of Sednaya convent. We also visited a smaller church, located on a hilltop. It was very old with its walls almost falling down. I don't know if its in better shape today. Can you please help me in remembering the name of that ancient church.

t'su said...

Happy late Easter, Ayman!

Another captivating photo. Quite majestic.

Ayman said...

Thanks everybody for you comments :)

Amr, I have only been to the Convent of Our Lady of Seidnaya. I know there are a couple of new monestaries in the area, including the Monestary of St. Ephram and Deir Cherubim. I don't know of any other church in Seidnaya. I tried to look this up but didn't find anything. Maybe we should ask a native of Seidnaya.

T'su, thank you and Happy late Easter to you too :)

M!R@CHK@ said...

I really like 2 go 2 Seidnaya happy Easter 2 all :)