Signature Lebanon: Ancient Monasteries and Modern Saints

September 16-24, 2023

Lebanon is a small but beautiful country of seacoasts, mountains, rivers – and, of course, majestic cedar trees – with a history stretching back thousands of years, to the Phoenicians, who invented both an alphabet and paper. 

Tucked in between Syria and Israel, it is a crossroads between Asia and Europe, a unique land where Christians, Muslims and Jews live together in peace. Christianity took root here in its very beginnings, and Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics are a treasure in the global Church. 

Our pilgrimage is not only a journey to holy places, but also a journey within, toward one place only — toward the heart of God, and our own personal unity with Him. 

Our itinerary is a living itinerary; each day may hold unexpected encounters. Our prayer is to allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. 

Come with us to this ancient land where Jesus Himself walked …experience Lebanon for yourself: the breathtaking country Pope John Paul II called “a message of peace” for the world. 

Pilgrimage Overview

September 16 – 24, 2023

Our pilgrimage to this “Land of Ancient Faith” will be full of spiritual insight and enriching encounters. We will travel to the Qadisha Valley, the heart of eastern Christian monasticism, and Bkerké, the “Vatican” of Lebanon and the site of the Maronite Patriarchal See. We will witness the extraordinary devotion of the Lebanese Christians to their saints, including St. Charbel, whose monastery we will visit and at whose tomb we will pray.

Day 1: Saturday, September 16, 2023

  •  Arrive to Beirut
  • Private transfer to Hilton Grand Hotel (you will be met upon exiting the secured area)
  • Immediately check into the Hilton Grand Hotel to rest
  • Welcome dinner at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea
  • Inside the Vatican Pilgrimages representatives will be with you the entire pilgrimage from arrival to departure:
    Deborah Tomlinson, President and Founder
    Christopher Hart-Moynihan, Director of Urbi et Orbi Communications’ Friends of Lebanon project
    Robert Moynihan, President of Urbi et Orbi Communication (may not attend the entire pilgrimage)

Day 2: Sunday, September 17, 2023 

  • Breakfast at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea
  • Attend Sunday Liturgy – St Rita’s Church Maronite Liturgy
  • Depart the Hotel Chbat in Bacharre ~ 2 hour drive. Lunch along the way
  • Visit St. Anthony Monastery in the Qadisha Valley 

The Monastery of St. Anthony is the birthplace of the first printing press in the Middle East. Some historians believe it was built in 1584. Its first printed text is The Book of Psalms. It dates back to 1610. The Lebanese Maronite Order renovated the printing press at the start of the nineteenth century. Its activities were halted at the beginning of the 1860 war. It resumed printing in 1871, but stopped again at the beginning of World War II. 

  • Dinner at Hotel Chbat overlooking the Qadisha Valley

Day 3: Monday, September 18, 2023

We will visit many holy sites and encounter many people in the area, including monks and hermits.

  • Breakfast at Hotel Chbat overlooking the Qadisha Valley
  • Drive down into the Qadisha Valley to visit Saint Elias Monastery
  • Lunch – once-in-a-lifetime experience dining at a restaurant amongst the trees on the bottom of the Qadisha Valley. Opportunity for a hike after lunch in the Qadisha Valley – optional.
  • Visit Basilica of Saba in Bacharre
  • Dinner at Hotel Chbat overlooking the Qadisha Valley

Qadisha Valley (The Holy Valley) The Qadisha Valley cradles centuries of Christian monasticism and the roots of the Maronite church in Lebanon, which date back to the 4th century. According to Unesco: “The Qadisha valley is one of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in the world.” 

Day 4: Tuesday, September 19, 2023 

  • Breakfast at Hotel Chbat overlooking the Qadisha Valley
  • Khalil Gibran Museum: Khalil Gibran was born in Bcharre, in the Qadisha Valley. His coffin rests in the hermitage which is part of the museum. Lunch nearby.

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls” – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet (1923)

The Cedars of God: Horsh Arz el-Rab The cedars in Lebanon are mentioned in the Bible 103 times. One quote from Ezekiel:
“Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs”

  • Dinner in Bacharre

Day 5: Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Depart the Qadisha Valley for Beirut. On our way we will visit: 

  • Our Lady of the Fortress (weather permitting)— On a clear evening you can see the northern part of Lebanon to include the coastline of Lebanon and even Syria and its coastline. 
  • Monastery of St. Hardidi (1808 – 1858) — a Maronite monk, priest and scholar. He is best known for being the master of St. Charbel
  • Monastery of St. Rafca (1832-1914) –– a Maronite nun canonized in 2001 by St. John Paul II. She was known for sharing in the suffering of Christ by offering her own suffering of blindness and paralysis to Christ
  • Lunch in the center of the ancient, seaside city of Byblos –– one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world.

The name Byblos is Greek; papyrus received its early Greek name (byblos, byblinos) from its being exported to the Aegean Sea through Byblos. Hence the English Word Bible is derived from byblos as “the (papyrus) book.

  • After lunch, we will walk around this ancient city before heading to Beirut 
  • Dinner at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea

Day 6: Thursday, September 21, 2023 

  • Breakfast at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea – relaxing morning

Today, we will visit downtown Beirut: 

  • Nejmeh Square — the central square with the famous clock tower built by the Ottomans
  • Martyr’s Square –– a rich history and home to the bullet-holes martyr’s statue, art exhibits can be found on many days
  • Solidere District — The French Mandate historic city, which was destroyed during the civil war, was recently renovated and transformed into a chic high-end shopping and cafe quarter
  • The many cathedrals in downtown Beirut –– St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, St. George Maronite Cathedral, and St Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral
  • Beirut Port –– site of the August 4, 2020 explosion
  • Lunch in the old city of Beirut
  • Boat tour of the famous Jeita Grotto
  • Dinner in Beirut

Day 7: Friday, September 22, 2023

  • Breakfast at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea

Today, we will travel a short distance up the mountain to Harissa which overlooks Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea to visit:

  • St Paul’s Greek Melkite Basilica
  • Our Lady of Lebanon
  • Monastery of Our Lady of Bkerké which is the See of the Maronite Patriarchate (the Vatican of Lebanon). Here we will pray the rosary with Patriarch Rai, the Patriarch of the Maronite Catholics, after which we will meet with him personally — if his schedule allows. Time permitting, we will visit the private museum of the Patriarchs.
  • Dinner at Mounir overlooking Beirut. Mounir is considered by many to be the best Lebanese restaurant in all of Lebanon 

Day 8: Saturday, September 23, 2023 

  • Breakfast at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea

Today, we will travel about an hour north to visit

  • A miracle-working saint — St Charbel (1828-1898); at the Monastery of St. Maroun and pray at the Tomb of St. Charbel
  • Encounter Father Louis in the Monastery of St. Maroun who has registered the miracles of St. Charbel for more than 30 years. He will share with us many stories
  • Visit the Hermitage of St. Charbel and his cell which is in the mountains overlooking a lovely valley
  • Lunch at the Monastery of St. Maroun prepared with the food from their garden — a delicious Lebanese meal!
  • Farewell dinner at the Hilton on the 32nd floor overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea

Day 9: Sunday, September 24, 2023

  • Depart for home from Beirut