Kadisha Valley aka Qadisha Valley, Wadi Qadisha, Ouadi Qadisha (وادي قاديشا)

Kadisha Valley aka Qadisha Valley, Wadi Qadisha, Ouadi Qadisha (وادي قاديشا )

Location: Bsharri and Zgharta Districts Map


Description of Kadisha Valley

Kadisha Valley is a massive geologic formation in the Bsharri  and Zgharta Districts of Lebanon. Kadisha Valley is famous for numerous ancient Christian monasteries and dwellings that were carved by early Christians who escaped persecutions of the Ancient Roman officials. The name of the valley comes from the Aramaic language and literally means "Holy", so another name for the area is a Holy Valley. With the arrival of the Muslims it became a place of solitude for Sufi sect of Islam who came here to pray. The valley is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a large concentration of ancient and medieval monasteries perched on vertical cliffs of the valley.



The sacred river, Nar Qandisha, flows through the valley for 35 kilometers from its source in a cave just below the Forest of God's Cedars in the Lebanon Mountains. The slopes of the valley are steep cliffs containing many caves, often over 1000 meters high and difficult to access. The most picturesque part of the valley stretches for about twenty kilometers between Bshari (Arabic: بشري), home of Khalil Gibran, and Tourza (Arabic: تورزا).

Here also flows the Holy River, Nach Kadisha, the source of which is in a holy mountain mentioned in the Scriptures.

The Cedars of God
The Kadisha Valley is located near the Forest of the Cedars of God, survivors of the ancient cedars of Lebanon, the most valuable building materials of the ancient world. The forest is said to contain 375 individual trees, two of which are said to be over 3000 years old, ten over 1000 years old, and the rest at least centuries old. The Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) is described in ancient works of botany as the oldest tree in the world. It was admired by the Israelites, who brought it to their land to build the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Historical sources state that the famous cedar forests began to disappear in the time of Justinian in the 6th century AD.



The many natural caves of the Cantissa Valley have been used as shelters and for burials since the Paleolithic period. Aassi Hauka (cave) in particular, near Hauka, Lebanon, has yielded archaeological artifacts indicating Paleolithic, Roman, and Medieval periods of use.

Since the first centuries of Christianity the Sacred Valley has served as a refuge for those seeking solitude. Historians believe that the Cantissa Valley has had monastic communities continuously since the early years of Christianity. It was also sometimes a destination for Muslim mystics, or Sufis, who also visited it for meditation and solitude.

The first Christian communities that escaped the persecutions found refuge in Kandissa. Among these groups were the Jacobites (Syrian Orthodox), Melchites (Byzantine Catholics), Nestorians, Armenians, and even Ethiopians. The Maronites, however, are the dominant Christian group in the valley. From the end of the 7th century, the Maronites fled to the valley from their original homes in the Levantine. At that time, they feared persecution from the Jacobites, who were not Chalcedonian, and who were persecuting the Chalcedonian Maronites, and from Islamic attacks. The settlement of the Maronites intensified in the 10th century after the destruction of the Monastery of Agios Maronos. The Maronite monks established their new center at Kanoubin, in the heart of Kandissa, and monasteries quickly spread over the surrounding hills. The early Maronite settlement in the valley combined both community and hermit life.

The Mamluk sultans Baibar and Qalaun led campaigns in 1268 and 1283, respectively, against the cave fortresses, monasteries and surrounding villages. Despite these attacks, Deir Kanoubin Monastery was to become the seat of the Maronite Patriarch in the 15th century and remain so for 500 years. In the 17th century, the Maronite monks' reputation for piety was such that many European poets, historians, geographers, politicians and clergy visited and even settled in the Valley. The first printing press in the Middle East was established in 1585 at the Kozaya Monastery in the Kadisha Valley, and in 1610 it printed its first book, the book of Psalms in the Syriac language. He used Syriac characters. Also, this printing house was the first to print in the Arabic language

The mummies of Candice
Eight well-preserved natural mummies of Maronite villagers dating to around 1283 AD. they were discovered by Fathi Baroudi, Pierre Abi Aoun, Paul Kahavaya and Antoine Gauts, a team of speleologists from the scientific organization GERSL in the Qadissa Valley between 1989 and 1991. These were found in the Asi-al Hadath cave along with abundant artefacts.

World Heritage Site
In 1998, UNESCO added the valley to the list of World Heritage Sites, due to its importance as the site of some of the first Christian monastic settlements in the world, and the continuing example of the early Christian faith.


The monasteries of Wadi Qadisha

The Kadisha (Holy) Valley is the location of some of the oldest Christian monastic communities in the Middle East. The natural caves of the valley, which were cozy, scattered and difficult to access, provided monks and hermits with sufficiently secluded and hospitable conditions to experience Christian solitude, contemplation and devotion. Many of the caves and anomalies on the slopes were adapted to serve as individual dwellings (cells), chapels, and monasteries, and such buildings were further carved out of the rocks of the valley. Some have interiors covered in frescoes and facades. Around the caves there are terraces made by the hermits for growing grain, grapes and olives.

While there are many monasteries in the valley, there are several main monastic complexes:

Kanubin Monastery
The Qannubin Monastery (Deir Qannubin, دیر قنوبین), is located on the northeastern side of the Qandisha Valley. It is the oldest of the Maronite monasteries. Although its founding is often attributed to the Emperor Theodosius in AD 375, it is more likely that it was founded by a disciple of Saint Theodosius the Cenobite. For the most part, it is carved into the rock face - monastic cells, a church, a monastery and accommodation for travelers.

The monastery was in the past the seat of the Patriarch of the Maronites.

Monastery of Agios Antonios of Kozaia
The Qozhaya Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios Qozhaya, دیر مارانطﻮنیوﺱ ﻗﺰحیا) is located on the opposite side of the valley from the Kanoubin Monastery. According to tradition it was founded in the 4th century by Saint Hilarion, in honor of the Egyptian departed, Saint Anthony the Great, although the first records date from around 1000 AD. It was destroyed in the 16th century but quickly restored. It includes a corridor, meeting room and chapel, with a mill and a number of hermitages carved into the nearby rocks.

Monastery of Panagia tis Hauka
Saidet Hauka is located at an altitude of 1150m. Between Kanubin and Kozaya monasteries, at the base of a huge cave. It was founded at the end of the 13th century by villagers from Hauka. The hermitage appears to be on a large ledge at mid-level where there is a water tank fed by canals. The upper level, accessible only by ladder, is a 47-meter-long cave, where the wealth of medieval pottery and arrowheads that have been found suggests its use as a shelter. At Aasi Hauka, traces of fortifications were also found at an altitude of 1170 meters. Archaeological findings show that this cave was used in Paleolithic, Roman and Medieval times.

Monastery of Mar Sarkis
Mar Sarkis Monastery, also called Ras Al Nar, overlooking Eden, Kfarshab, Baneh and Hadath El Jebeh. Given its excellent location overlooking the valley at an altitude of 1500 meters, the monastery is called the Watchful Eye of Candice. It is dedicated to Saints Sarkis and Bacchus (Saints Sergius and Bacchus). The name Ras Al Nar means the head of the river, as it is located near the source of Mar Sarkis, the main feeder of the Klaginsieh River which joins the Kanoubin River in the valley.

The first church of Saints Sarkis and Bacchus was built in the middle of the 8th century AD. in the ruins of a Canaanite temple dedicated to a god of agriculture. Next to it, another church dedicated to Panagia was built in 1198 AD. Several buildings were added from 1404 to 1690, when Patriarch Estefan Duaihi restored some of the buildings.

Mar Lisa Monastery
Mar Lisa or Saint Elisha (دیر مار ﺃلیشع), first mentioned in the 14th century, is divided into two communities, a monastic order of Maronites and the order of Carmelites. It consists of three or four small cells, a dining room and some offices. The communal church includes four chapels carved into the rock.

Other monasteries
Other monastic institutions in Kandissa are the Monastery of Mar Grigis, with the Chapel of Mar Halita, the Monastery of Mar Johanna, the Monastery of Mar Abun, with the Hermitage of Mar Sarkis, and the Monastery of Mart Mura and others.

There is another group of monasteries in the neighboring Hadchit Valley (Wadi Hulat). These were founded by Monophysite Ethiopian monks who were expelled from the neighboring town of Echden and stayed there before their communities dispersed elsewhere. They include the monastic monastery complexes of Deir es-Sahib, Mar Antonios, Mar Shemaane and Mar Asia, as well as the isolated chapels of Mar Bohna and Mar Khmouna.