A monumental statue of the patron saint of Lebanon, St. Charbel, was installed on August 20, 2017, in Faraya, on the heights of the Kesrouan district, in northern Lebanon.
The nearly-90 foot high, 40-ton statue is the work of Lebanese artist Naef Alwa. It will also serve as a reliquary, since a fragment of bone from the hermit of the St. Maron convent in Annaya will be placed inside of it when the monument is consecrated. The ceremony will take place on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, on September 14.
“There is room for almost 6,000 people around the statue, which makes it a good place for large celebrations or outdoor Masses,” explained Fady Noun, a journalist for L’Orient Le Jour.
Transferring the statue involved complex logistics, given its colossal dimensions. Authorities gave permission for a special oversized load to use a fast lane to the northeast of the capital, Beirut. By wat of comparison, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is almost 125 feet high (including the 26-foot pedestal).
According to Fady Noun, the monument “is the result of a wish and a vow”. The president of the town of Faraya, Michel Salamé, is behind it all. It began with the idea of making the region more of a tourist attraction. But, explains the Lebanese French newspaper, “as chance would have it, his nephew, who has the same name, got meningitis in 2016”. And according to young Michel’s parents, thanks to “a miraculous combination of factors in which medicine and the intercession of St. Charbel both played their part”, the comatose child ended up recovering. Thus, “the promise made by the president of the town of Faraya came together with the vow made by little Michel’s parents to start the project off”.
In answer to criticism that called his project too ostentatious, Michel Salamé refused to let his intentions be judged, declaring simply: “We are not ashamed to show our faith. Anyone who is shocked by that can look somewhere else!”
As the Lebanese newspaper points out, “St. Charbel’s reputation as a miracle worker is well established” and “a statue, however gigantic, is nothing compared to the sanctity that earned him the glory of the altars and an immense popular devotion”.
St. Charbel was a Maronite priest and monk who lived between 1828 and 1898. His life in the monastery was consecrated to prayer and work. He died at the age of 70, on December 24, 1898. After his death, his body remained incorrupt for a long time and many miracles have been confirmed. St. Charbel, the patron of Lebanon, was beatified on December 5, 1965, then canonized on October 9, 1977, by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.