The Monastery of Qozhaya is the oldest, richest and most-known monastery of the Lebanese Maronite Order. It is located in the Qadisha Valley in the neighborhood of Kfarsghab(1)
The relations between the Monastery and Kfarsghab are very old, most probably prior to the formation of the Lebanese Maronite Order in 1699 and its establishment in Qozhaya in 1707. The popular tradition records the link between some families in Kfarsghab with the Monastery superiors (Habkouk family, known later as Khouri Giris family) as far as the end of the Seventeenth Century.
In the Eighteenth Century, some Kfarsghab families worked the land owned by Qozhaya as partners, under the Partnership system (Musharaka) prevailing then, and which is still in use in some villages (Al Fradiss, 3arbet Qozhaya, Shoumar, ...) but not in Kfarsghab anymore. Under this system, people cultivated the land of the landowner (2)
- a sheikh or a monastery generally - for a part of the produce. Qozhaya continued to buy land in and around Kfarsghab all along the 19th Century. In 1830's, The Monastery bought rights for irrigating their land in Bane and Michimchayya from the source of Kfarsghab. For Kfarsghab, all that created an economic and social dependency with Qozhaya throughout the Eighteenth and the Nineteenth Centuries. It is said that Qozhaya monks created a school located between Ban and Kfarsghab for the basic education of the children of those two villages around the end of the Eighteenth Century(3)
The previous ties translated into Kfarsghab giving several of its sons to the Monastery as hermits, monks and superiors all along the Eighteenth and the Nineteenth Centuries. At one stage, this numbered over sixty monks, most of who were two brothers from each household. The Monastery records show that vocations from Kfarsghab started on 27 February 1710, and ceased on 17 December 1898 when Br Ephraim Saliba Abood II joined. Brother Ephraim died on 9 April 1947. The records also show that the monks from Kfarsghab were of deep faith and worked energetically for the good of the community. Two of them became Archbishops and several Superiors of Monasteries.(4)
Below, you will find the names of some of our monks.(5)
The third important relation is to be found at the end of the Nineteenth Century.The Monastery was obliged by the Maronite Church Authorities to buy the lands of the impoverished Sheikhs due to the collapse of the silk industry, which constitued the main revenue in Lebanon at that time. To do so, Qozhaya needed cash because the Monastery depended also for most of its revenues on silk. The Monastery was therefore obliged to sell land in Kfarsghab and Ban. At that time,the early Kfarsghabi emigrants to Australia and the United States started sending back home the much needed cash, some to recover their lost lands from the Sheikhs, some to buy property to prepare their return. And This phenomenon was very common in Lebanon at that time.(6)
The history of the relations between Kfarsghab and its neighboring Qozhaya Monastery is full of events, exchanges, ... but also of respect and love. Qozhaya has a special place in the heart of every Lebanese for in the darkest moments of our Country, it sheltered, fed, educated and protected all those of us who were in need throughout the centuries. But for the people of kfarsghab, it is much more than that. Qozhaya is the Home of our hearts.
(1) - For Information on Qozhaya, see - the Monastery of Qozhaya Website
(2) - Coming Soon on this site, The evolution of land property in North Lebanon from 1700 to 1900
(3) - from A Concise History of Mount Lebanon of Sheikh Antonios Abi Khattar from Ain Tourine - Editor Dar Lahd Khater - Beirut 1983 - p. 122
(4) - From AKA website - the first exodus
(5) - Information taken from the book "Mar Antonios Qozhaya Monastery" by Fr. Antoine Mokbel - Private editor Ghazir - October 2000
(6) - See the Book "Inventing Home" by Akram Fouad Khater - University of California Press - 2001