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St. George Al Houmayra

Twenty km east of Crac, on the road to Safita there are some big modern buildings in the hollow of the valley. These unattractive walls house a monastery which goes back to the sixth century.

It was dedicated to "Gorgeos", the St. George who killed the dragon, patron saint of England and of the Knights of the Garter. It is often forgotten that he was martyred at Lydda in Palestine and was venerated first by the Christians of Egypt and Syria. The Muslims know him as Lord Al Khodr Abu Al Abbaass and call the monastery by the name of a neighboring archaeological site, Al Houmayra. The monks, who are Orthodox , hold regular services and receive pilgrims, who come in great numbers on May 6th, the Feast of St. George, and on September 14th, the Feast of the holy Cross.

The church, surmounted by a dome, was rebuilt in the 19th century. The Iconostasis, one of the largest in Syria and Lebanon, was carved and decorated at the same time. Of greater interest are the ancient icons, silver crosses, chased chalices and dishes, in the "Treasury" which can be visited on request.

The ancient underground chapel can also be visited: beautiful 13th century woodcarving, in a remarkable state of preservation, and, behind bars, a series of icons depicting the life of St. George.

In a green hollow on the nest hillside there are mineral waters noted for their curative properties. They are known to the local inhabitants as Al Fawwar Al Ajib, "the miraculous gushing spring".

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