Virgin Mary, Harissa
26 km far from Beirut, overlooking the bay of Jounieh, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon - Harissa, which was erected in 1904 over the hill of Harissa, can be seen from miles. Inside the base of the statue there is a chapel and outside, a spiral staircase leads to the top. Near the white-painted bronze statue, this was made in Lyon - France and brought to Lebanon and installed in 1908.
The idea of building the sanctuary in Harissa came 50 years after the declaration of Pope Pie IX (in December 8, 1854), about Immaculate Conception. And after many negotiations with bishops, priest and prominent citizens, “the Rock” in Harissa was chosen to host the sanctuary.
The inauguration was solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday of May 1908, and many devoted people came from different places. Since then, Harissa, one small village, became a very important Christian site. The name of “Our Lady of Lebanon” has went beyond frontiers and has reached overseas, attracting tourists from different religions and beliefs who come each year to show worship and piety. During the 1970s, a Basilica, designed in the style of a Cedar tree and a Phoenician ship, was built to contain thousands of persons and since 1991, great celebrations start taking place in it.
Similar statues of the Lady of Lebanon were built in other countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Argentine, Australia, Brazil, Europe, South Africa and others.
The road of Mary is one of the most important events ever occurred in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon. An historical event during which the statue of the Virgin Mary passed by all the Lebanese regions visiting more than 426 villages and towns, in 1954, the year of St Mary and the one hundred anniversary of the proclamation of the immaculate conception. On the last Sunday of May 1954, the statue of the Virgin “Mother of light” was blessed in Bkerke than transported to Harissa in the middle of prayers. To welcome the statue thousands of people, coming from Lebanon and from abroad, kept coming to Harissa all night long. After a two-hour walk, the statue arrived to Harissa where a huge crowd was waiting for, sitting between the Church of Our Lady and the Pope Embassy.
Since the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon was erected on the top of the mountain in Harissa, visitors come from different part of the world and from different religions and beliefs. The most important event was especially the visit of the Pope John Paul II in May 1997. Coming from the Pope Embassy he entered the Basilica and saluted the handicapped people in the front then he went outside were 150.000 people gathered waiting for him. Then his holiness addressed a message to the Lebanese youth. Hundreds of visitors come everyday to Harissa, especially in feasts and remarkable events like to welcome the relic of St Therese in October 2002 and when the sanctuary received the statue of the virgin of Fatima in August 2003. For that, Harissa will always remain a place of holiness and reverence.