In the late
1820’s Maronites from the mountains began immigrating to Beirut in hope of
better economic opportunities. By 1860 and following the civil war in Mount
Lebanon, they relocated in the tens of thousands.
In 1884 the
corner stone for the new Cathedral was laid out on top of an earlier Maronite
church that had been constructed in 1753 to serve the tiny community at the
time, but with the rapid population shift from the mountains to the city, the
earlier church found itself unable to properly accommodate the faithful as
their numbers increased, fortifying the demand to construct a new, enlarged and
more appropriate structure. On Palm Sunday in 1894, the St. George Maronite
Cathedral of Beirut was consecrated. It was the largest congregational and
religious structure in the city at the time, its design inspired by and
conceived from the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
Cathedral was designed by Giuseppe Maggiore and was constructed by Monsignor
Youssef El-Debs, the Maronite Archbishop of Beirut. The Cathedral’s resemblance
to its Roman counterpart is striking; the division of the main façade, the interior
use of Ionic columns to delineate the accessory sides from the main nave, the
gold-encrusted cobbled roof and the meticulously carved altar are all evocative
of Santa Maria Maggiore. The Cathedral’s construction used age-old columns removed
from the Phoenician-Roman temple ruins in the Deir El Qalaa monastery in Beit
Meri, 10 miles up the mountain, and incorporated them in the structure of the
Cathedral was bombarded heavily during the Lebanese Civil War, restoration
works commenced in 1997 and were completed in April 2000. In 2010, construction
started on a new campanile adjacent to the church which was to rise to 72
meters, matching the height of the minarets of the Mohammad al-Amine mosque
next door. The new bell tower was completed in 2016.
Ward. "The Genesis of a Mosque: Negotiating Sacred Space in Downtown
Beirut." European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for
Advanced Studies. Badia Fiesolana, 1 June 2008. Web.
Kassir, Samir (2003) Histoire de
Beyrouth, Fayard, Paris.
Al-Asmar, Ignatius, Monsignor.
"Cathedrale." Maronite Archbishopy of Beirut. Accessed October 01,
Fawaz, Leila Tarazi. An Occasion for War:
Civil Conflict in Lebanon and Damascus in 1860. Berkeley: U of California,
Built in-lieu of an earlier church from 1753, Interior Restoration by Antoun Tabet, Shelled, burned and looted during Lebanese Civil War, 72 meter bell tower added to match height of Mohammad Al-Amine Mosque