The ancient and predominently christian village of
Maalula is located in the eastren slopes of Al-Qalamoun mountains
(Anti-Lebanon mountains), southern Syria about 50 km north of Damascus.It
is situated at an altitude of more than 1500 metres.
The houses are built on the slopes of a huge cirque of rocks that encloses
the village; the houses are constructed of stones with flat beam roofs. Most
of the houses have blue plaster on the outside, a Christian custom.
There are two monasteries here; Saint Sergius (Sarkis) and Saint Thecla
(Tekla). Most of the inhabitants are Greek-Catholic and have preserved in
their spoken language a dialect of Syriac (Aramaic), the language spoken by
Christ. Two neighbouring villages, Jabaadin and Najaa also speak the same
language.The word Maalula means 'entrance' in Aramaic.
The Catholic monastery of Saint Sarkis (St. Sergius) has inside it a small
Byzantine church whose altar has raised sides, like the pagan altars of
Roman templeshas; This Byzantine church and Byzantine-period tombs are cut
into the rock behind.
The Orthodox monastery, Mar Takla (St. Thecla), has a modern church.
Relics, boulders and caverns carved in the rocks relate the history of
thousands of years from the Aramaean era, when Maalula was part of the
kingdom of Homs. During the Roman era it
was named Seliocopolis. Maalula played an important religious role
during the Byzantine era, as it became at the fourth century A.D. the center
of an episcopate that lasted untill the 17th century.
The Aramic language witch is still spoken in Maalula is an extremely ancient
language current in the Middle east during the first millenium before
Christ. Two books of the Bible, Daniel and Esdras, were written in Western
Aramaic. It was also the language of Christ. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer
of Christians all over the world, was first spoken in Aramaic; the monks of
Mar Sarkis have made a recording of it in this language
Attractions and historical building
Even though the majority of its buildings are modern, Maalulla is a
beautiful place with curious wind-eroded rocks at the top end of the village
and a gentle orchard-filled valley at the other. There's a remarkably sleepy
air to the place which is a pleasant break from the frenetic pace and crowds
- One of the most famous landmarks is the monastery of St Tekla (Thecla).
according to legend she was an early convert to christianity and a follower
of St Paul who broke off her engagement to devote herself to god. Her
vengeful fiance tried to kill her by various means, all of which were
thwarted by divine intervention. Eventually she is supposed to have hidden
away in a grotto in the cliff around which the modern convent was built.
The monastery of St Tekla is a blessed place. People from different
religions go there to gain blessings and to make offerings. Inside lies the
remains of St. Tekla.
- Another landmark in Maalula is Mar Sarkis (Sergius) Monastery. It was
built in the fourth century on the remains of a pagan temple. It was named
after St. Sarkis, a Syrian knight who fell in the reign of king Maximanus in
An excursion to Maaloula can be easily combined with a visit to another
Christian site, the convent at Seidnaya, 30 kilometers to the south-west,