During my past travels to Beirut, I'd often walked by this church near the Solidere clocktower without giving it much thought. That was mostly because I was there at night and the church was always closed. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I once again found myself in Solidere and saw that the church's doors were open, so I walked in to check it out. Wow, was I glad I did. The church, which just opened its doors last year after 17 years of refurbishing is absolutely beautiful. The restorative work performed on the murals was first-rate and has returned them to their stunning original glory. It's basically just a riot of color inside the church with all the murals, icons, and altar meshing seamlessly together to provide a classic religious experience.
In addition to the church, which is free to enter, there's also a small archeological museum next door. This museum, which goes underneath the church in what's essentially the church's crypt, is inexpensive (5000 LE or $3.33 to enter), informative (everything is very well signed and lit), and well done. I went on a hot summer day, and the difference in temperature by being underground was both pleasant and striking. In addition to the displays contained in the museum, there is also an interesting focus on items still in situ, such as the skeleton of a long dead Ottoman soldier and the various mosaic foundations of early versions of the church. These last, by showing the difference in height between the current and older versions of the church, really emphasize how all current structures are really just built on the remains of the past. Also noteworthy is a 10 minute long video which shows how the church has changed throughout the years and the local events which have affected it. It takes some patience to see it to the end but it's worthwhile. All in all, I highly recommend this church and museum for anybody that's visiting Beirut. I know I'll be back.
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