ETHNONYMS: non e
The Maronites are an ancient East Christian sect that derives its name from John Maron, a learned monk who was named patriarch of Antioch, around the turn of the eighth century. Some Maronite authors claim, however, that the name derives from Maron, or Maro of Cyrrhus, a monk who was born near Apamea on the River Orontes, in northern Syria (and who died there, at some time before 423). He was a renowned ascetic who prayed on a mountaintop. Endowed with extraordinary spiritual powers, he attracted many disciples. These authors claim that he was a friend of Saint John Chrysostom,' father of the liturgy that is still used in both the Greek and the Roman churches, and an upholder of orthodoxy when Monothelitism (the view that Christ had but one will) was the issue of debate. His followers built a monastery next to his tomb, and it became the nucleus of the Maronite church, which gained lasting approval from Pope Benedict XIV in 1753. Indeed, the Maronite church was the first Syrian church to join Rome, and thus it became the first Uniate of the East.
Maronites today number about 1,300,000. Half a million of them reside in Lebanon, which has served as their national home ever since they left northern Syria. Other centers of residence include Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt, and the Americas, where some 200,000 constitute the core of the early emigrants from the Syro-Lebanese region, who left when it was still under Ottoman rule. They have established official bishoprics in Aleppo, Tripoli, Jubayl (ancient Byblos) and Botra, Baʿalbek (ancient Heliopolis), Damascus, Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, Cyprus, and also in North America, where they have independent churches in the principal cities of the continent.
History and Cultural Relations
The earliest information that is available on the Maronite sect was recorded by Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus (d. 458). Early in the sixth century, Maronite monks were foremost among the defenders of the doctrine of Chalcedon, which, owing to the controversy generated in its aftermath, brought on a permanent schism between adherents of Chalcedon and those of Monophysitism, the faith of the Jacobites and the Nestorians. In the battles that ensued with the Monophysites, Maronites lost 350 monks. Many of their monasteries were destroyed by the Monophysites. Saint Maron's monastery, however, continued to serve until the middle of the seventh century as the stronghold of the Chalcedonians as well as the center of their missionary activities in northern Syria.
In the eighth century John Maron advocated the Monothelite theory that attributed one will to Jesus, a compromise among those who stressed one or the other of the two natures of Christ, a dualism that was unacceptable to the early fathers of Christianity. Maron and his followers found themselves in opposition not only to their Christian neighbors among the Syrians, but also to the Muslim Imperium that upheld the churches that had maintained detachment from Byzantium.
Muslims had conquered Syria in the seventh century and dominated most of the known civilized world from China to France by the middle of the eighth. Maronites at this time were dubbed maradah (rebels). But the attempts of civilian authorities to suppress the Maronite monks only served to strengthen the bond between them and their lay followers, as did their use of Syriac, a derivative of Aramaic and the spoken vernacular of the region.
Heads of monasteries were invested with an episcopal character, and the people in the surrounding areas came under their direct jurisdiction. Over a period of time, the monks shaped the people's religious life and imparted a peculiar character to them, which bore the stamp of the monks' customs and traditions. This legacy has remained until today an important and enduring characteristic of the Maronite church and people, their canon law and church governance. This monastic origin explains also the persistently strong influence of the patriarch in civil and religious matters among Maronites at present. Indeed, Maronites regard their patriarch as the actual leader of their "nation."
Patriarch Anastasius II was the last Chalcedonian to reside in Antioch. He was killed in 721. Only titular heads were appointed after 721, by Constantinople, the capital of Christendom. The vacancy persisted until 742, when the Umayyad caliph, Hisham, allowed the Maronites to elect their own patriarch. In electing Stephen III, Maronites acquired control over their own destiny. An independent Maronite patriarchate evolved in consequence thereof. Historians claim that it was in 685 that Maronites acquired their first elected patriarch.
From the very beginning, their bishops took the title "of Antioch." Maronite authors dispute the argument of Eutyches (Sa īd ibn Batriq), the Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria, who claimed that the Maronites renounced their Monothelite heresy when the Crusaders showed up, early in the twelfth century. They allege that Eutyches's writings misled the Latin writer William of Tyre—the standard Latin authority on the Crusades—who wrote that the Maronites entered the Catholic church after contacts with Latin kingdoms and after renouncing Monothelitism. Although this assertion may be disputed, there is no disputing that the Maronite connection with the Latin West came via the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. The connection might have been hastened by the pressures of their Monophysite neighbors—who enjoyed influence among the Muslim caliphs of Damascus and, later, those of Baghdad—especially after the Maronites were forced to abandon their Syrian habitat for the northern mountain fastness of Lebanon, in order to escape the attacks of both Melchites (adherents of Constantinople) and Monophysites at a time when they had no contacts directly with Rome.
The first church in Mount Lebanon was established (according to Maronite writings) around 749 and was protected by a feudal system of government, which the monks organized to that end. Accordingly, the patriarch headed the "nation," assisted by bishops who served as his vicars. When Crusaders, heading to conquer Jerusalem, appeared on the coastal strip below their mountain strongholds, Maronites greeted and befriended them. Latin writers allege that Maronite contacts with Rome were broken after Pope Hormisdas responded a letter of 518 and that they were reestablished only after the visit of Jeremías al-Amshiti (1199-1230), the first Maronite patriarch to visit Rome and attend the Lateran Council, in 1215. Following this visit, he received a bull and a pallium from Pope Innocent III, signaling his integration with the Latin church. Relations with Rome were interrupted once again during the rule of the Mamluk sultans, who had completely ended the presence of Crusaders in Syria by 1298.
The canonical legislation that gives the Maronite rite its ecclesiastical church discipline and hierarchical structure is distinct from other canonical rites of the Eastern Uniate churches. What came down from the Middle Ages is enshrined in the only surviving copy of the Kitāb al-Huda (Book of Guidance), which is written in Karshuni (Arabic in Syriac script). The priest-monk Yūsuf (Joseph) Elias, the Nestorian metropolitan of Nisibis (1058-1059), and Abdullah ibn al-Tajīb (d. 1043) both assert that the Byzantine-rite Melchites and Maronites share the same doctrine on the nature of Christ, the difference being that Maronites admit one will in Christ, instead of two.
When they were cut off from the Holy See in Rome during the Mamluk era (1291-1517), and when they found that the Kitāb al-Huda no longer provided sufficient guidance, Maronites adopted the canons of the Coptic ibn al-Assāl. Avoiding such contacts was prudent even after the Mongol invasions and the subsequent attempts by their khans to elicit Latin Europe's support against the Muslim Mamluks. Contacts were reestablished during the patriarchate of John Jaʿjaʿ (1404-1445), before the Maronite prelates were recognized formally as patriarchs of Antioch. Pope Paul III (1534-1549) sent Franciscans to teach the Maronite clergy Latin and to instruct them in the Latin rite for administering the sacraments. When the Mamluks were ousted by the Ottomans in 1517, Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) introduced the millet system (a transformation of the dhimmi status that was enjoyed by Christian sects during the Arabian caliphates). The Maronites were able to govern their own internal affairs even though they themselves were not officially accorded the millet status, which status was first granted in 1453 to the Greek Orthodox patriarch, following the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II in 1453 and, later, in 1461, to the Armenian patriarch. Uniate churches received such recognition only after the Ottomans were compelled to grant it by French and papal pressures in the seventeenth century, in consequence of serious Ottoman military reverses in Europe.
In 1584 Pope Gregory XIII founded a Maronite college in Rome to train their clergy, and among the brilliant scholars it produced, many years later, were the Assemani (al-Sim āni) brothers, one of whom (Yūsuf), served as custodian of the Vatican library. They were among the principal informants of the West about Eastern Christianity. Before the creation of the college, the Maronite church had maintained its essential character, that of a monastic institution. Indeed, the patriarch still resides in the monastery of Qannubin in the sacred valley of Kadisiya (al-Qādisīyah) when he is not at the official residence in Bakirköy.
Three synods (1580, 1596, 1598) were convened by the Maronite patriarch at the urging of the papal legates for the purpose of introducing the legislation of Trent and the Latin liturgy, which called for relaxing their fasting rules during Lent and other changes in liturgical customs. Patriarch Yūsuf al-Rizzi had already introduced the Gregorian calendar. In the atmosphere of tolerance that prevailed late in the seventeenth century, new monasteries and a number of European missions were established in the East. Patriarch al-Duwayhi in 1700 organized the Maronite order of Saint Anthony, to further buttress the monastic attributes of the church.
Following the Council of Trent, in 1562, efforts were made to Latinize the Eastern churches. Survivors of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, which had been ended by Saladin, took refuge among the Maronites and were allegedly responsible for preparing the way for the Latinization of their church. Latinization efforts took on a decisive character in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the advent of Latin missions helped speed up the process. An added impetus followed the establishment of Maronite orders in the aftermath of the Lebanese synod of 1736.
In 1734 Yūsuf al-Khāzin and his bishops requested the Holy See to send them an apostolic visitor to help them reform their church. The pope sent al-Sim āni as his personal legate to call a synod of the Maronite hierarchy and to preside over it. The synod was held in Rayfun in upper Kisrawān (present-day north-central Lebanon), on 14 September 1736. Customs that were first introduced by the Crusaders were codified, and the synod ended with the Latinization of church liturgical procedures and the administration of the sacraments.
This Mount Lebanon Synod (as it came to be known) split the Maronites. Its enactments generated a five-year crisis that drew in even the Druze ruler of Mount Lebanon (Emir Milhim Shihāb). A battle was fought between the "Integrists" and the "Reformists," and peace was restored only after the pope took into account Maronite attachment to their time-honored traditions and decreed that they could keep their old customs and liturgy. Maronites were content now to return to their old disciplines. They were permitted to conduct in Syriac their "Mass of Saint James." Their clergy were allowed to marry, elect their own patriarch, and keep the hereditary title "of Antioch." In 1744 Pope Benedict XIV formally confirmed on the current patriarch the title of "Maronite Patriarch of Antioch."
In spite of the controversy it generated, the Synod of Mount Lebanon is remembered as a landmark in Maronite history, in that it led to the formai establishment of the present Maronite diocese. Only Aleppo, however, and sometimes Nicosia and Damascus, had resident bishops—a surviving memory of numerous pre-Islamic eparchies of the Maronites in the Near East.
The austere life they led was noted by a visiting French diplomat, Chevalier Laurent d'Avrieux, who described Maronite life-style as being influenced by monastic institutions (1735). For centuries, they had abided by spiritual and social ways that had been shaped by their monastic environment. Churches were erected in northern Lebanon by private families and were largely the mortmains of these families, which dated back to the twelfth century, in Batrun, Jubayl, and Jubbat Bsharrī.
Seminaries were established for the purpose of training priests—the earliest in 1624, in Hawga, followed by another in Aleppo in the second half of the seventeenth century. They attracted scholars and novices, and more were to follow in Mount Lebanon. The 1818 synod made new efforts to regenerate clerical studies. A major central seminary was established at Ayn Waraga. After returning to Lebanon in 1831, the Jesuits opened an interritual seminary in Ghazir in 1844, which was converted in 1875 to the University of Saint Joseph and relocated in East Beirut. In 1881 it became the first pontifical university in the East.
Avrieux, Chevalier Laurent d' (1735). Mémoires du Chevalier d'Avrieux. 6 vols. Paris.
Blaybil, Lewis (1924). History of the Lebanese Maronite Order (in Arabic). Cairo.
Gibbon, Edward (1776-1788). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 6 vols. London.
El-Hayek, Elias (1967). "Maronite Rite." In The New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9, 247-253. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mahfoud, George Joseph (1967). L 'organisation monastique dans l'Église Maronite. Jounieh, Lebanon: Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik.
Mahfoud, Pierre (1965). Joseph Simon Assémani. Rome.
Naaman, Paul ( 1971). Théodoret de Cyr et le Monastère de Saint Maron: Les origines des Maronites. Essai d'histoire et de géographie. Jounieh, Lebanon: Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik.
Ristelheuber, René (1925). Les traditions françaises au Liban. Paris.
Salibi, Kamal (1959). Maronite Historians of Medieval Lebanon. Beirut: American University of Beirut Press.
Vailhé, S. (1906). "L'Église Maronite du Vè au IXè siècle." In Échos d'Orient. Paris.
CAESAR E. FARAH
POPULATION: 1.5 million (2006 estimate)
LANGUAGE: Arabic; French; English
RELIGION: Maronite (Uniate Catholicism)
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 4: Lebanese
Maronites take their name either from the 5th century ad saint, John Maroun, or the 8th century ad monk who took his name and became the first Patriarch of Antioch. Although their origins are obscure, the Maronites believe that their heritage goes back to the time of Jesus. Their ancestors lived when Jesus did in the land then known as Palestine, heard him preach, and were among the first Christians. Whatever their origins, they were one of the Christian sects in the Middle East to remain intact after the Islamic revolution of the 7th century ad. (For the first 100 years of Islamic rule, Arabs more often than not considered Islam an "Arab" religion and did not expect non-Arabs to convert.) The Maronites were the only Christian sect to use Arabic for their church records right from the start.
To distinguish themselves from "Arabs," Maronite versions of their history claim that they fled Muslim persecution during the Islamic revolution. Records show, however, that at first the Maronites welcomed the Muslims as saviors from the hated Byzantine rulers of that time, and the Muslims in fact treated the Maronites fairly well. The Maronites ingratiated themselves with these new overlords and set up tax-farming arrangements that provided the Maronites with a decent living. It was not until the European Crusaders sacked Alexandria and the Maronites supported them that the Muslims questioned Maronite loyalty and punished them along with other Christians. The Maronites eventually fled to the hills of Mount Lebanon to escape persecution by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. They stubbornly survived there for the centuries to follow.
Maronite support of the Crusaders established ties to the West that became a defining factor for the Maronite community. They entered into partial communion with the Roman Catholic Church in the 12th century ad and came into full communion in 1763. During the Ottoman rule of the mid-19th century, Lebanon had been divided into two states, one Christian and one Druze. The Druze religion dates back to the 11th century and is separate from Christianity or Islam. Its adherents were often persecuted as heretics by Muslims. The French supported the Maronites in their war with the British-supported Druze. After the Druze massacred a large number of Maronites in 1860, an international commission decided to reunite the country under a non-Lebanese governor. The French later allied themselves again with the Maronites during the French mandate years (1920-1943), cementing the Maronite identification with the West, particularly France. This Western identity has led to a sense of separateness from other Arabs on the part of the Maronites and resentment toward them on the part of their Arab-identified neighbors. In the last ten years, however, Maronites have become more comfortable with a Lebanese identity as nationalism has increased among Lebanon's population.
The Maronites have campaigned for an independent home-land since the 7th century ad, but they are no longer attempting to convert Lebanon into a Maronite state today. Based on the confessional system of government (where political authority is divided up according to population percentages of religious faiths), the Lebanese presidency is designated as a Maronite post because Maronites were in the majority at the time of the 1932 census. A civil war began in Lebanon in April 1975 due to increasing instability of a system of government that allowed Christians majority rule despite the fact that Muslims had become the majority of the population. This was especially true after the influx of Palestinian refugees from Palestine and Jordan in 1948, 1967, and 1970. The unwillingness of the French and the Maronites to consider the concerns of the majority in a period of strong Arab nationalism led to increasing conflict, which was promoted in part by outside players. Initially, the Muslims had the upper hand in the fighting, but Syria, with the support of Israel, the United States, and most Arab states, entered Lebanon with a "peacekeeping" force to maintain the status quo. With Syria's support, the Maronites were able to preserve their position in Lebanon until a new government was formed at Taif (in Saudi Arabia), which, under Syria's tutelage, formally ended the civil war. Maronite Christians still retain the presidency position in Lebanon's governing structure. However, the sect's political power has diminished considerably since the 1990s as the Druze and Shia Muslims has grown more united.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
Most ethnic groups living in the Levant region have intermingled with other groups. The territory known as Lebanon today has a diverse society, due in part to numerous foreign armies passing through over the centuries. Some Maronites claim descent from the European Crusaders, such as the major northern families of Franjiehs and Douaihis. The Franjiehs say their name means "Franks," and the Douaihis link their name to the French city of Douai, the home of some of the knights of the Crusades. It appears from what records exist that the Maronite sect began in northern Syria in the valley of the Orontes River, near the present-day city of Hama, in the 6th century ad. The Maronites moved south to the coast of northern Lebanon in the 8th century, then fled into the hills of Mount Lebanon to escape persecution by the Ottoman Turks in the mid- to late-15th century. Holing up in small, isolated communities, the Maronites became clannish and fiercely self-protective. After surviving in the high mountains of northern Lebanon for many centuries, the Maronites then spread south throughout the mountain range during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Maronite Church acquired a great deal of land and became the largest, most organized, wealthiest institution in the Mount Lebanon area. By the mid-19th century, the Maronite Church owned one-fourth to one-third of all the land in Mount Lebanon. During the 20th century, some Maronites began to move out of the mountains to the cities and coastal plains, especially to Beirut, but they continued to be clannish and isolated from their neighbors in their new locations.
During the Lebanese civil war, more than 600,000 Maronites were driven out of their homes and off their lands. Of the 850,000 inhabitants of the Maronite enclave in Lebanon sometimes called "Marounistan," 100,000 fled abroad, and 150,000 fled to other parts of Lebanon. As Muslims gain more political dominance in Lebanon, more Maronites are emigrating from their homeland to Europe and the United States.
Although Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, many Maronites also speak French. Economic and military ties have led most residents of Lebanon to learn French and English in addition to Arabic. Syriac is used for the church liturgy, but Maronites have used Arabic for church records since their beginnings.
The door of the Maronite church in Beit Meri is never locked because it is believed that the hand of any thief there would be miraculously paralyzed.
The Maronites are Uniate Catholics: they recognize the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope, but they have their own form of worship. Their priests can marry, and monks and nuns are housed in the same building. Even after becoming a Uniate church in ad 1180, the Maronites continued to use the Syriac language for their liturgy instead of Latin (as in the Roman church). Syriac is the Maronite liturgical language to this day. The Maronites did quietly drop their belief in monothelitism, branded heresy in ad 680 by the Roman church, after becoming a Uniate church in 1180. Monothelitism proposes that Christ has two natures that are so blended with each other that they produce one will. The orthodox view, called dyothelitism, holds that Christ has two natures and two wills, one human and one divine, which are inseparable, yet unconfused: Christ is at one with God in his divine nature and at one with humanity in his human nature. The Qadisha (Holy) valley is the Maronite spiritual center.
The Maronites celebrate the usual Christian holidays, such as Christmas (December 25), Easter (moveable, in March or April), the Feast of the Ascension (40 days after Easter), and the Feast of the Assumption (August 15). On the Festival of the Cross (September 14), Maronites set fires on high places all over Mount Lebanon and light candles at home and in churches. A special Maronite holy day is St. Maroun's Day (February 9), the feast of the Maronite patron saint, St. John Maroun of the 5th century AD.
RITES OF PASSAGE
The Maronites mark major life events, such as birth, marriage, and death, within the traditions of Christianity.
Centuries of life in isolated mountain communities, hiding out from persecution by various attackers, has led to the development of clan loyalties and fierce feuding among the Maronites.
Maronite villages have a style of architecture common around the Mediterranean area. Homes are small and simple, yet elegant, often with a balcony overlooking the mountains or the Mediterranean Sea. Since the 18th and 19th centuries, the Maronites have been fairly affluent. During the Lebanese civil war, many Maronites fled from the cities (especially Beirut) back to their ancestral homes in Mount Lebanon. As a result, business boomed there, housing construction soared, and the area became quite prosperous.
Although modernization has led to an increased emphasis on the nuclear family, the Maronites, like other Arabs in Lebanon, still have a strong sense of extended family. Men spend quite a bit of time at home with the women and children. There is some intermarriage between Maronites and members of other religious groups. Divorce is forbidden by Maronite law.
Maronites wear Western-style clothing, as do the Druze, Shiites, Sunnis, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox in Lebanon. The more devout Maronites tend to wear conservative clothing. Apart from slight differences in headgear, even the religious leaders of all the communities in Lebanon tend to dress alike.
Maronites eat typical Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, with French and European elements blended in. For example, breakfast might consist of either Lebanese flatbread or French croissants with cheese and coffee or tea. Lunches and dinners usually consist of meat (mutton is a favorite) with onion, spices, and rice. Mutton is often ground and served as meatballs or in stews, or mixed with rice and vegetables and rolled in grape leaves. The Middle Eastern tradition of mezze (small portions of a wide variety of foods served all at once for diners to pick and choose from) is popular with Maronites, as is arak, the anise-flavored alcohol produced in the region.
By the 17th century, European missionaries had established Catholic schools in Lebanon. The Maronites had an initial advantage with the missionary schools established for them, but eventually the schools began accepting Muslims as well. In 1788, a monastery was converted to a secondary school that taught secular subjects, and American Protestant missionaries set up schools for both boys and girls in Lebanon in the 1820s and 1830s. However, the Uniate Catholic Maronites were more inclined toward the schools set up soon after by French Catholic missionaries. Most Maronites today still receive their primary and secondary schooling in French-language schools, then generally go to the University of St. Joseph in Beirut, founded by French Jesuits in 1875 to compete with the Syrian Protestant College (now called the American University of Beirut) established in 1866.
The Lebanese government requires students to have a functional knowledge of Arabic in order to graduate from secondary school but only recently has this been enforced. Many older Maronites speak only French.
The poet Maya Angelou published an essay on the Maronites in Lebanon in 1984. At the time, civil war had been raging in Lebanon for nine years and would continue for six more years. Angelou described the Maronites as a people with "a split personality." "They are Arabs who often look to the West for inspiration and assistance," Angelou wrote. "A minority that insists it must rule in order to survive and nationalists in a land that is so fracture it can hardly be called a nation."
Angelou's words continue to describe the cultural heritage of the Maronites today. Lebanon contains people of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Maronite leaders have joined with leaders of other factions within Lebanon to try and unify the country. Yet, the Maronites also wonder where they fit in the Lebanon of the early twenty-first century. They are an Arab people, but they have strong cultural ties to the West, and many have ancestral ties to the West as well. In 1585 a religious school for Maronite men was established in Rome. A short time later, European Catholic missionaries settled in Lebanon and began schools there. To this day, Maronites continue to send their children to French-language private schools in Lebanon [seeLebanese ]. As former president Camille Chamoun, a Maronite, told Angelou: "We are part of the Arab world, but we are also apart from the Arab world because so much of our identity comes from the West."
Many Maronites are wealthy, and Maronites have long held powerful positions in Lebanese government, business, and education. With the aid of the French, the Maronites developed Mount Lebanon's greatest money-making venture of the past-the silk industry. The mountainsides are dotted with old silk-reeling factories.
Maronites enjoy the same sports as other Lebanese. These activities include soccer, basketball, volleyball, horseback-riding, cross-country running, martial arts, skiing, rock-climbing, and caving. Maronites, like other Lebanese, also go swimming and fishing in the lakes, rivers, or visit beaches along the Mediterranean coast.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Maronites, like other residents of Lebanon, watch television avidly. Many stations emphasize all Christian programming, though others offer a mix. Maronites also watch American, European, and Lebanese films in theaters, and enjoy the dramatic theatre tradition of their home country.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Traditional crafts among Lebanese Maronites include basketry, carpet-weaving, ceramics and pottery, copper and metalworking, embroidery, glass-blowing, and gold- and silver-smithing. Lebanon is also known for its finely crafted church bells. Wine-making can also be considered an art, dating back for thousands of years in Lebanon.
The Maronites suffered under Ottoman rule from the 16th century to the end of World War I. The arrival of European colonizers in the early 20th century worked to their advantage, especially because the Maronites shared the same Christian faith as the Europeans. The privileges that the Maronites acquired under European colonial rule are treated with disdain by other Lebanese who see their acquisition of wealth as a product of their favorable access to Lebanese politics. Although other communities (such as the Sunnis and Shiites) have also benefited from the traditional Lebanese system of government created by the French, there have been tensions as these groups seek more equitable representation in the Lebanese government. Within the Maronite community itself, centuries of clannish mountain life has led to perpetual feuding and in-fighting, continuing today among the different Maronite militias.
The long civil war damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure. National output was cut in half, and the country has struggled to rebuild its economy through heavy borrowing from domestic banks and international sources. The economic difficulties have made the plight of the Maronite minority more precarious, especially since many Lebanese Muslims see the Maronites as hostile to their people. The end of the civil war and the end of Maronite political dominance has made many Maronites uncertain about their future place in Lebanon. As a result, many Maronites have begun to migrate out of Lebanon in recent years.
Maronite women experience the same kind of discrimination in public and private life that other Lebanese women face. In general, Lebanese laws and court systems do little to help women. Lebanese laws allow for each religion to have a separate court system to handle matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Frequently, these religious customs, whether they are Christian or Muslim, fail to protect women from domestic violence.
Angelou, Maya. "Arabs who look to the West; with guns and crosses, Lebanon's Christians try to survive." Time 123 (5 March 1984): 29-30.
Dreher, Rod. "Out of Lebanon: The fate of Christians, the fate of a country." National Review 54.24 (Dec 23, 2002).
Foster, Leila Merrell. Enchantment of the World: Lebanon. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992.
Johnson, Marguerite. "Arabs Who Look to the West: With Guns and Crosses, Lebanon's Christians Try to Survive." In Time 123 (5 March 1984): 29.
Keen, Lynda. Guide to Lebanon. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1995.
Lebanon. CultureGrams: World Edition. Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest LLC, 2008.
Marston, Elsa. Lebanon: New Light in an Ancient Land. New York: Dillon Press, 1994.
Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: The Middle East and North Africa, 1st ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.
Phares, Walid. Lebanese Christian Nationalism: The Rise and Fall of an Ethnic Resistance. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995.
Randal, Jonathan. The Tragedy of Lebanon: Christian War-lords, Israeli Adventurers and American Bunglers. London: Hogarth Press, 1990.
—revised by H. Gupta-Carlson
POPULATION: 1.2 million
LANGUAGE: Arabic; French; English
RELIGION: Maronite (Uniate Catholicism)
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Maronites believe that their heritage dates back to the time of Jesus. They were one of the Christian sects in the Middle East to remain intact after the Islamic revolution of the seventh century ad. At first the Maronites welcomed the Muslims as saviors from the hated Byzantine rulers. However, when the European Crusaders attacked Alexandria, the Maronites supported them. This caused the Muslims to question Maronite loyalty and punish them along with the rest of the Christians. The Maronites eventually fled to the hills of Mount Lebanon to escape persecution by the Ottoman Turks in the fifteenth century. They stubbornly survived there for centuries. Taking refuge in small, isolated communities, the Maronites became clannish and fiercely self-protective.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Ottomans divided Lebanon into two states, one Christian and one Druze (a Muslim sect). The French supported the Maronites in their war with the British-supported Druze. The French again allied themselves with the Maronites from 1920 to 1943. This cemented the Maronite identification with the West, particularly France. This "Western" identity has led to a sense of separateness from other Arabs, and resentment on the part of their neighbors. Recently, however, Maronites have become more comfortable with their Lebanese identity.
The Maronites have campaigned for an independent homeland since the seventh century ad. However, they are no longer attempting to convert Lebanon into a Maronite state.
2 • LOCATION
After surviving in the high mountains of northern Lebanon for many centuries, the Maronites spread southward during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Maronite Church owned one-fourth to one-third of all the land in Mount Lebanon. During the twentieth century, some Maronites began to move out of the mountains to the cities and coastal plains, especially to Beirut.
During the recent Lebanese civil war, more than 600,000 Maronites were driven out of their homes and off their lands. The Maronite population is about 1.2 million people. Maronites are concentrated in East Beirut, while Muslim Shi'ites live primarily in West Beirut.
3 • LANGUAGE
Although Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, many Maronites also speak French. Syriac is used for the church liturgy, but Maronites have used Arabic for church records since their beginnings.
4 • FOLKLORE
The door of the Maronite church in the town of Bayt Meri near Beirut is never locked because it is believed that the hand of any thief there would be miraculously paralyzed.
5 • RELIGION
The Maronites are Uniate Catholics. They recognize the authority of the Roman Catholic pope, but they have their own form of worship. Their priests can marry, and monks and nuns are housed in the same building. The Maronites have continued to use the Syriac language for their liturgy instead of Latin. The Maronites hold the orthodox view that Christ has two natures, one human and one divine, that are inseparable yet distinct. Christ is at one with God in his divine nature, and at one with humanity in his human nature. The Qadisha (Holy) Valley is the Maronites' spiritual center.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
The Maronites celebrate the usual Christian holidays, such as Christmas (December 25), Easter (in March or April), the Feast of the Ascension (May 15), and the Feast of the Assumption (August 15). On the Festival of the Cross (September 14), Maronites set fires on high places all over Mount Lebanon and light candles at home and in churches. A special Maronite holy day is St. Maroun's Day (February 9), the feast of the Maronites' patron saint, St. John Maroun, who lived in the fifth century ad.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
The Maronites mark major life events, such as birth, marriage, and death, within the traditions of Christianity.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Living for centuries in isolated mountain communities has led the Maronites to develop both clan loyalties and fierce feuding.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Maronite homes are small and simple, yet elegant, often with a balcony overlooking the mountains or the Mediterranean Sea. During the recent Lebanese civil war, many Maronites fled from the cities (especially Beirut) back to their ancestral homes in Mount Lebanon. As a result, business there boomed, housing construction soared, and the area became quite prosperous.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The Maronites, like other Arabs in Lebanon, still have a strong sense of extended family. Men spend quite a bit of time at home with the women and children. There is some intermarriage between Maronites and members of other religious groups. Divorce is forbidden by Maronite law.
11 • CLOTHING
Maronites wear Western-style clothing, as do other cultural groups in Lebanon. The more-devout Maronites tend to wear conservative clothing.
12 • FOOD
Maronites eat typical Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. For example, breakfast might consist of either Lebanese flatbread or French croissants with cheese and coffee or tea. Lunches and dinners usually consist of meat with onion, spices, and rice. Mutton (lamb meat) is often ground and served as meatballs or in stews. It is also mixed with rice and vegetables and rolled in grape leaves. Maronites like to eat mezze (small portions of a wide variety of foods). Also popular is arak, the anise-flavored alcohol produced in the region.
13 • EDUCATION
Most Maronites today still receive their primary and secondary schooling in French-language schools. Then they generally go to the University of St. Joseph in Beirut, founded by French Jesuits in 1875.
Today all Lebanese students must know Arabic in order to graduate from secondary school. Many older Maronites, however, speak only French.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Maronites have strong cultural ties to the West. In 1585 a religious school for Maronite men was established in Rome. A short time later, European Catholic missionaries settled in Lebanon and began schools there.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
Maronites have long held powerful positions in Lebanese government, business, and education. Many are wealthy. With the aid of the French, the Maronites developed Mount Lebanon's greatest moneymaking venture of the past—the silk industry. The mountainsides are dotted with old silk-reeling factories.
16 • SPORTS
Soccer, basketball, and volleyball are popular. Cross-country running, particularly in the mountains, and the martial arts are widely practiced. Skiing, rock climbing, and cave exploration are also enjoyed in the mountains. Maronites enjoy swimming and fishing in the lakes, rivers, or Mediterranean Sea.
17 • RECREATION
Lebanon has over fifty television stations, all of them commercial. One station shows all Christian programming, another all Muslim. Lebanese cinemas show American and European films. Lebanon itself also has an active filmmaking industry. Like other Lebanese, Maronites enjoy going to the theater. They particularly like comedies that poke fun at government leaders and Lebanese society.
Maronites play board games (especially Monopoly), chess, checkers, card games, and backgammon, which is called tawleh (literally, "table").
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Traditional crafts include basketry, carpet-weaving, ceramics and pottery, copper-and metalworking, embroidery, glass blowing, and gold-and silversmithing. Lebanon is also known for its finely crafted church bells.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Within the Maronite community, centuries of clannish mountain life have led to perpetual feuding, continuing today among the different Maronite militias.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bleaney, C. H. Lebanon. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1991.
Eshel, Isaac. Lebanon in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1988.
Foster, Leila Merrell. Enchantment of the World: Lebanon. Chicago, Ill.: Childrens Press, 1992.
Marston, Elsa. Lebanon: New Light in an Ancient Land. New York: Dillon Press, 1994.
ArabNet. Lebanon. [Online] Available http://www.arab.net/lebanon/lebanon_contents.html, 1998.
Embassy of Lebanon, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.erols.com/lebanon/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Lebanon. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/lb/gen.html, 1998.
An indigenous church of Lebanon and Lebanon's largest Eastern-rite church.
The communion between the Maronite church and the Roman Catholic church was established in 1182, broken thereafter, and then reestablished in the sixteenth century. The union allowed the Maronites to retain their own rites and canon laws and to use Arabic and Aramaic in their liturgy, as well as the Karashuni script with old Syriac letters. The origins of the Maronites are a subject of continuing debate. Some historians trace them to Yuhanna Marun of Antioch in the seventh century; others trace them to the Yuhanna Marun who was a monk of Homs in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. In Syriac, the word maron, or marun, means small lord.
In the late seventh century, following persecution by other Christians for their heterodox views and rituals, the Maronites migrated from the coastal regions into the mountainous areas of Lebanon and Syria. During the Ottoman era, the Maronites remained isolated and relatively autonomous in these areas, although in recent times this autonomy has been greatly exaggerated for ideological and national reasons and made into a national myth. The Maronite community underwent socioeconomic changes in the nineteenth century, when the Maronite Church wielded tremendous economic and political power and the peasants within the community grew increasingly dissatisfied with the uneven distribution of the community's wealth and with the rigid social hierarchy that placed the patriarchate at the top. In 1858, the peasants revolted against the large landowning families, but the church quickly engaged them in sectarian agitation. The revolt soon degenerated into a communal war between Druze and Maronites. This conflict came to characterize much of the history of nineteenth-century Lebanon, as the ruling families of the two communities split over the credibility of the Chehabi dynasty and over other political and economic issues. Land ownership, distribution of political power, and the question of safe passage of one community's members in the territory of the other remained thorny issues in their relationship. The conflict was internationalized in 1860, when France, historically the ostensible protector of the Maronites, sent a military expedition to the area.
The relationship of the two groups was not decisively settled in 1920 with the establishment of the mandate system, but the carnage of the previous century seemed to have ended. The Druze, however, despite their apparent military victory, only seemed to accept the political dominance of the Maronites, who were favored by the French authorities. Their dissatisfaction centered on their desire for a continuous, albeit inferior, political representation.
The Maronite sect has been directed and administered by the Patriarch of Antioch and the East. Bishops are generally nominated by a church synod from among the graduates of the Maronite College in Rome. In 2004, Mar Nasrallah Butrus Sfeir (also Sufayr) was the Maronite patriarch.
In addition to the Beirut archdiocese, nine other archdioceses and dioceses are located in the Middle East: Aleppo, Baʿalbak, Cairo, Cyprus, Damascus, the Jubayl al-Batrun area, Sidon, Tripoli, and Tyre. Parishes and independent dioceses are also found wherever Maronites reside in large enough numbers: in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal. Lebanon has four minor seminaries (al-Batrun, Ghazir, Ayn Saʿada, and Tripoli) and a faculty of theology at Holy Spirit University at al-Kaslik, which is run by the Maronite monastic order. The patriarch is elected in a secret ceremony by a synod of bishops and confirmed by the pope in Rome.
An estimated 416,000 Maronites live in Lebanon, although the number is exaggerated by Lebanese ultranationalists, including an unknown number abroad. Maronites make up 16 percent of Lebanon's population. Historically, most Maronites have been rural people, like the Druze, although, unlike the Druze, they are scattered throughout the country, with a heavy concentration in Mount Lebanon. Urbanized Maronites reside in East Beirut and its suburbs. The Maronite sect has been traditionally awarded—thanks to French support—the highest posts in government, and its status within the socioeconomic hierarchy of Lebanon has been, in general, higher than that of other sects. Lebanese nationalism has been associated over the years with Maronite sectarian ideologies, so much so that most non-Maronite Lebanese tend to feel uneasy with the notion of Lebanese nationalism because it has come to signify the Lebanese political system with its Maronite dominance.
The Maronites, like other sects in Lebanon, have suffered from the civil war and its consequences. Although many Maronites were combatants, much of the Maronite civilian population paid a price—as did all civilians in Lebanon—for the recklessness of the warring factions. Many Maronites were displaced, especially from the Shuf Mountains, as a result of battles and forced expulsions. Many (no reliable figures exist) chose to emigrate, going to Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia in search of peace and prosperity. Maronite leaders continue to warn of the dangers of diminishing Maronite demographic weight due to immigration. The Lebanese political reforms of Taʾif in 1989 did not necessarily undermine the political dominance of the Maronite community, since the presidency, the Central Bank, and command of the Lebanese Army remained in Maronite hands. In fact, the sectarian designation of governmental seats was solidified by the reforms, and the presidency was kept exclusively for Maronites. Nevertheless, the increased powers of the council of ministers curtailed some of the previous arbitrary powers of the president. But the implementation depended, and will continue to depend, on the personal and political impact of politicians, in terms of both their popularity within their own communities and the external support they receive from various regional and international powers. The political nervousness of the Maronite community in 2004, due to the exile of General Michel Aoun and the imprisonment of former Lebanese Forces commander Samir Geagea, has propelled the Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir into a position of unprecedented political and religious authority.
see also druze; lebanese civil war (1975–1990); lebanon; lebanon, mount; mandate system; sfeir, nasrallah.
Moosa, Matti. The Maronites in History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986.
Salibi, Kamal S. Maronite Historians of Medieval Lebanon. New York: AMS Press, 1959.
The largest Christian community in Lebanon. They are members of the Maronite Catholic Church, a Uniate Church—affiliated with, but not under the control of, the Roman Catholic Church—that follows its own rites, customs, and liturgy. The church is led by a patriarch, currently Nasrallah Sfeir, who, because of the sectarian political arrangement of Lebanese society, is a politically significant person.
The church was founded in the fifth century at a monastery south of Antioch by followers of the hermit St. Maron. The Maronites emigrated to Mount Lebanon in the seventh century to escape the persecution of the Greek Orthodox Church of Byzantium. They made common cause with the European Crusaders and affiliated with the Roman church in 1182.
The first sectarian struggles between the Maronites and the Druze occurred in 1841. In the following year an era of instability commenced in Lebanon, due to, among other causes, the intervention of European powers into Ottoman politics. Since 1648 France had guaranteed the protection of Catholics in general and Maronites in particular, while Russia supported the Greek Orthodox, and Great Britain, the Druze. In May 1860 an incident between Christians and Druze degenerated into a civil war, which led to the intervention of the French army. A commission of the European Great Powers negotiated an arrangement called the Règlement Organique in 1861 in which the Mount Lebanon province, with a Maronite district and a Druze district, became autonomous within the Ottoman Empire.
Owing to its ties with France, the Maronites experienced significant social, as well as cultural and economic, development. Following World War I and the end of Ottoman rule, France received a League of Nations mandate over Greater Syria, which included Lebanon. At the urging of the Maronites, the French created a Greater Lebanon, taking predominantly Muslim territory from Syria and annexing it to the original autonomous province establishing the current borders. In 1926 the French promulgated a constitution establishing a strong presidential regime headed by a Christian, with a controlling role for the Maronites. The amended constitution of independent Lebanon in 1943 was based on a National Pact agreed to by the leaders of the Maronite and Sunni Muslim communities that reserved the presidency for a Maronite and the prime ministership for a Sunni, and confirmed the sectarian basis of Lebanese politics.
The Maronite political elite dominated Lebanon before the civil war of 1975–1990 and has continued to do so since (with Israeli and Syrian help)—a domination at least partly based on the fiction that the Maronites are the largest confessional community in the country. It is estimated that the population of Lebanon is at least 70 percent Muslim, with 45 percent of that being Shiʿa.
As a Uniat body they have their own liturgy (mostly Syriac) and their own hierarchy of patriarch and ten bishops. Outside Lebanon and Syria there are also churches in Cyprus, Egypt, and N. and S. America.
Maronites (mâr´ənīts), Lebanese Christian community, in communion with the pope. By emigration they have spread to Cyprus, Palestine, Egypt, South America, and the United States and now number about one million. Their liturgy (said mainly in liturgical Syriac) is of the Antiochene type, with innovations taken from the Latin rite. Their ecclesiastical head, under the pope, is called patriarch of Antioch; he lives in Lebanon. As in other Eastern rites, the parish priests are usually married. The Maronites have been a distinct community since the 7th cent., when they separated in the doctrinal dispute over Monotheletism; they returned to communion with the pope in the 12th cent. In the 19th cent., massacres of Maronites by the Druze brought French intervention; this gave France a hold in Lebanon and Syria. Besides the Maronites there are two other groups in Syria in communion with the pope—the Melchites and the Syrian Catholics.
See D. Attwater, The Christian Churches of the East, Vol. I (1947).