Saint Maron

Historical Reference

“Historia Religiosa”, written by Theodoret of Cyrrhus around 440 A.D. is our only source on St. Maroun’s biography. The author describes the life of hermits in Cyrrhus and vicinity. In chapter 16 the author mentions that St. Maroun was one of those hermits. He had a tremendous influence on his disciples (22).

The diocese of Cyrrhus is in northern Syria. In those days, the Romans had divided Syria into three administrative regions: Syria Prima (Ca.le-Syria), Syria Secunda (Salutaris) and Syria Tersa (Euphratia) with Antioch, Apamea, and Hierapolis (or Membej) as their capitals respectively.

The regions between south of Apamea and the southem Lebanese borders were divided into two parts: Lebanese Phoenicia with Homs – and then Damascus – as the metropolis, and Maritime or coastal Phoenicia with Tyre as the metropolis. The Diocese of Cyrrhus, with Theodoret as its bishop, was west of Euphratia. Cyrrhus was at a distance of two days north east of Antioch and about 70 kms north west of Aleppo. This diocese seat was Antioch founded by St. Peter prior to his departure to Rome. Theodoret mentions that when St. Maroun decided to lead a life of isolation, he went to a rugged mountain half-way between Cyrrhus and Aleppo. There was a huge pagan temple for god Nabo of which was derived the name of the mountain and the neighboring village Kfarnabo.

Exemplarary Life

St. Maroun consecrated the temple for divine christian worship. The pattern of his life had a great influence on his disciples who followed suit and were “as plants of wisdom in the region of Cyrrhus” (23).
St. Maroun’s sainthood became known throughout the Empire. St. John Chrysostom sent him a letter around 405 A.D. expressing his great love and respect and asked St. Maroun to pray for him.
St. Maroun died around 410 A.D. and willed to be buried in St. Zabina’s tomb in Kita in the region of Cyrrhus. However, his will was not executed because people from different villages wanted to have him buried in their towns. Theodoret’s description of St. Maroun’s burial place<.4) points to the populous town of Barad in the proximity of Kfarnabo. A huge church was built in that town around the beginning of the fifth century A.D. (25).

Inside this church there was a sarcophagus, which possibly contained St. Maroun’s body. According to a Maronite tradition, the followers of St. Maroun carried the relics of the Saint, especially the skull, to St. Maroun’s Monastery or “Beit Maroun” built in 452 A.D. between Hama and Aleppo in Syria.

Relic of Saint

The skull was carried to St. Maroun’s Monastery in Kfarhai, Batroun – Lebanon around the turn of the eighth century. Patriarch Douaihy mentions: “When Youhanna (John) Maroun settled in Kfarhai, he built an altar and a monastery after St. Maroun’s name and put St. Maroun’s skull inside the altar to heal the faithful. That’s why the monastery is called “Rish Mro” (Syriac) meaning “Maroun’s head”(26) .

Later, St. Maroun’s skull was taken to Italy. In 1130 A.D. one of the Benedictine monks came tc the region. This monk was the rector of the Cross Afonastery near Foligno-Italy. During his visit he heard about St. Maroun’s skull, and upon retuming home he publicized St. Maroun’s virtues.

As a matter of fact, a church was built after St. Maroun’s name in Foligno. The Bishop of Foligno carried the skull to the city in 1194 A.D. and put it in the church of the diocese. The faithful in the city made a statue of silver for St. Maroun and put the skull in it. During his stay in Italy in 1887, Bishop Youssef el-Debs was given some relics of St. Maroun’s skull by the Bishop of Foligno(27).