Milestones In The History Of The Lebanese Maronite Order (Part 2 of 3)

  

 

In this second part of the historical study done by Father Karam Rizk on Maronites in Lebanon, we will explore the organizational period of the Maronite Church,  the period of difficulties between 1742 and 1770 and the period of development and prosperity between 1770 and 1832.

 

If you wish to read the original article, click [Here].

 

IV. THE ORGANIZATIONAL PERIOD (1695-1792)

The Antiochian Syriac monastic life is rich in tradition. It facilitated the pursuit of two goals: either the individual anchoritic life or the organized community life. But when the three founders of the order decided to follow the monastic life in Lebanon, the system of organized monasteries was nonexistent. In his memoirs, Qaraalli described his experience at the Monastery of Our Lady of Tamish (Artemis). There existed a community of nine monks on one side and a group of nuns on the other side, without any superior, constitution or vows. They lived simply according to tradition. Qaraalli stated, "They lived a life of innocence and simplicity which was suitable for the righteous but very dangerous for those who were less virtuous" (Azzi 198: 27). Dandini, a pontifical envoy had made a similar observation a century earlier (Dandini 1675: 105-106).

 

Based on these remarks, the contemporary scholars have often concluded that the founders decided to introduce a reform; but there is a significant difference between reform and renewal. Reform [2] can cause complete split or can result in the creation of a different structure, whereas the renewal is generally an internal change of an entity, which is typical of the long-established religious orders of the Church. In fact, the founders were not explicit about the true goal of their endeavor.

 

On November 10, 1695, Patriarch Stephen Duwaihi bestowed on the founders the hooded monastic habit at Our Lady of Qannoubeen. This date marked the beginning of the religious order and the date to hold the General Chapter meetings. Saint Moura Monastery became the seat for the Generalship Office. Gabriel (Jibrayel) Farhat joined the three founders at Saint Moura Monastery that same year. The founders began organizing their way of life and started receiving new vocations. They elected Gabriel Hawwa as Superior General (1695-1699). Abdallah Qaraalli drew up 22 articles of regulations which he later condensed into 15. They also began to establish the foundations for the General and Special Chapters as well as the Order of Directors. It was decided that the General Chapter would be held once every three years and that the election of representatives would take place at the same time. The representatives, in turn, would designate the Superiors. The year 1698 appears to have been one rich in accomplishments.

 

However, discord soon seeped in, and in 1699 a disagreement erupted about the purpose of the order. Hawwa wanted the order to be essentially a missionary one, with a Superior General elected for life. On the other hand, Qaraalli held a majority of the members and wanted an order of monks who lived in community and carried on apostolic work as circumstances allowed. Qaraalli's views finally prevailed and he was elected Superior General by six consecutive General Chapters from 1699 until 1716, the year he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Beirut. As for Hawwa, Patriarch Duwaihi urged him to withdraw to Saint Moura Monastery and start his own religious order. Having failed in his attempt, he left for Rome three years later, seeking to purchase a printing press. He took up permanent residence in Rome and did not return to the East until the Apostolic See sent him there on a mission. He was appointed Bishop of Cyprus in 1723.

 

In 1699, Gabriel Farhat became disenchanted and withdrew from the order. He settled in Zgharta where he taught children and preached. He returned to the order in 1705 and succeeded Qaraalli as Superior General. He directed the order for seven consecutive years with considerable wisdom, enriching it with his own spiritual and literary writings and translations from numerous sources. He was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Aleppo in 1725.

 

Neither Qaraalli nor Farhat sought ecclesiastical honors and both were saddened tremendously when they had to leave the order to which they were so deeply attached. They continued to support the order from their new positions.

 

Qaraalli and Farhat confided the monastic covenant to a worthy second generation that the founders had thoroughly prepared to face difficulty with firmness and resolve. Among these were two who were known for their tenacity: Michael (Mikhayel) Iskandar Al-Ehdeny and Thomas (Touma) Al-Labboudy Al-Halaby. The first pioneers and their immediate successors worked hand in hand to find a coherent juridical formula capable of governing all aspects of monastic life. In drawing up their constitution, the founders relied on the experience, patience, sense of realism, and the spiritual and psychological insight gained over the years. They also drew upon the Syriac and Eastern traditions and the constitutions of the Carmelite Friars and the Jesuit Fathers. Patriarch Duwaihi (1670-1704), in 1700, and Patriarch Jacob (Yacoob) Awwad (1705-1733), in 1725, placed their seal of approval on the result of these efforts. The latter introduced in the rule of the order three new chapters which dealt with humility, patience, and brotherly love.

 

Finally, the authors of these regulations found it necessary to obtain authorization from Rome. The difficulties plaguing the Maronite Church had touched the order itself during the Patriarchate of Jacob Awwad. This situation convinced the authors of the need of a guarantee for their common enterprise from the Apostolic See. Upon the suggestion of Al-Semaany, Superior General/Father Michael (Mikhayel) Iskandar (1723-1735, 1741-1742) made the journey to Rome in 1727. In collaboration with Father Youwasif Al-Dibsy Al-Biskantawy and with the approval of his Council of Assistants, Father Iskandar drew up the final draft of these rules. Pope Clement XII (1730-1740) confirmed them by Papal Bull on March 31, 1732. In 1735, they were printed simultaneously in Arabic with Syriac characters (Garshuni) and in Latin by the Propagation of Faith Press in Rome at the expense of the order. The title given to them was "The Constitution and Monastic Statutes Pertaining to the Congregation of the Lebanese Order", nicknamed "The Black Rule." This remained in force until 1938 when “The Red Rule” replaced it.

 

Bishop Al-Semaany, who was a learned specialist in Church matters and the principal author of these rules, kept the eighteen chapters and structured them according to modern Western monastic rules. These rules gave the order greater immunity against its detractors. They also served as a basis for the various Eastern religious orders and a model for any Maronite legislation. It further hastened the holding of the Lebanese Synod, a desire long held by the Lebanese Monks. The sessions of this important Synod were held at the Our Lady of Louayzi Monastery between the end of September and the beginning of October 1736. The Lebanese monks contributed significantly to the cost and to the final decisions. Their keen organizational ability placed the order in a prominent position in the decision-making process of the Maronite Church.

Having achieved so much in organizational affairs, the order had an increase in vocations and enjoyed a famous period in which it grew and flourished. Because of the steady growth of the order in Mount Lebanon, in 1706 Qaraalli, gave it the name of "Lebanese Order" which it still retains. Thus, a firm organic relationship, like a mother-child relationship, was established between the Lebanese Maronite Order and Lebanon.

 

Many monks in numerous other monasteries joined the new order and unconditionally entrusted all their possessions to it. The ledgers of the monasteries give us detailed figures about the responsibilities the order assumed as a result. The order restored old monasteries, added new floors, paid debts and taxes and provided pastoral service for the people in the surrounding areas.

 

The vibrant dynamism of this new movement was soon to bear fruit. Nine new monasteries joined in addition to those that had already joined, beginning with Mart (Saint) Moura on August 1, 1695 and St. Elisha the Prophet in Bsharre on April 1, 1696. In February of 1706, the order gained a foothold in the Shouf area with the monastery of Saint John at Rashmaya and in Kesrouan with the monastery of Our Lady of Louayzi in 1706. The order acquired the monastery of Saint Anthony at Seer near Rashmaya in 1707 and Saint Anthony's Monastery at Qozhaya on July 5, 1708. By that time, the order felt self-confident and began building a new monastery of the Virgin (Al-Azra) at the Al-Drayebin Al-Qobayat in 1710, although this was subsequently abandoned. The order acquired the monasteries of Saints Peter and Paul at Krayem Al-Teen, near Beit Shabab, in 1712, Our Lady of Tamish Deeck Al-Mahdy in 1727, Saint Elias of Shwaya in 1728, the religious house in Tripoli in 1734, the monastery of Our Lady of Mashmoushy in 1736, and Our Lady of Hawqa in 1737. In 1736, the order founded the Convent of Saint Elias Al-Rass, the first canonically-erected house of the Lebanese Maronite nuns. It was built in the spirit of the regulation, which had eliminated combined monasteries for both sexes. This resulted in disagreements whose consequences endured until 1828, when Patriarch Joseph Hobaish (1823-1845), a man of firm principles, put an end to it all.

 

The order expanded its mission in 1737 to serve the Maronites of Cyprus and Akka. This action provoked a conflict with the Latin-rite missionaries who claimed that they alone had the right to minister to the Maronites in these two regions as well as in Beirut and Tripoli.

 

The order, aware of the needs of the faithful and wanting to honor its commitments, rented several pieces of real estate for that purpose. The most important of them was Bakleek in Ain Baqra, as well as others in Seb’el. In 1713, it paid the taxes on these properties. It acquired the Mill of Abi Ali in Tripoli in 1715.

 

However, growth was soon followed by problems. Some of those who had donated their possessions to the order rescinded their offer and reclaimed their gifts. They later returned them. For the first time, the order accumulated a debt and began distributing part of that debt (18,327.30 piastres) among the monasteries, while the Generalship Office assumed the responsibility to pay the rest.

 

It appears that these debts did not include the six thousand piastres the order donated toward the expenses of the Lebanese Synod. Father Thomas Al-Labboudy, Superior General (1735-1741), estimated in 1739 that the interest had reached six thousand piastres. (Bleibel 1924: 324) This financial situation worried Qaraalli and caused difficulties with far-reaching consequences. The number of monks in the order had reached 210 during the first forty years of its founding.[3]

 

It was during this period that a decision was reached on the style for a standard religious habit. The preference was one piece without an opening and buttons in front to distinguish it from the cassock worn by secular clergy. It was woven from wool, which was plentiful locally and much cheaper than imported cotton. The monastic hood was made of the same material and the shirt was made of cotton. (Bleibel 1924: 153-154, 158) Al-Labboudy attempted to send some of the monks to learn weaving from the Franciscans. Al-Semaany promised help in this endeavor (Bleibel 1924: 324-325).

 

The rule of "Protocol" became embodied in the regulation. It was reinforced by precedence and consecrated by tradition. The position of the Superior General became most senior of all. Like a Bishop, he had the right to wear and carry pontifical insignia. After him, the order of seniority is Assistants in the first, second, third and fourth level, followed by the Superior of the Monastery of St. John at Rashmaya. He is followed by the Superior of Saint Anthony at Qozhaya and then by the other Superiors according to the date of their vows and their age. The proper religious salutation was also agreed upon.

 

The founders were particularly concerned about the spiritual issues, which they considered the keystone for the continuity of the order. They composed several books defining its spirituality and directing the spiritual formation of its members. Their works had great influence on the spiritual and intellectual life, not only of the Maronites, but also of the other people of the Middle East. These masterpieces became a plentiful source from which future generations of the entire region could quench their spiritual thirst.

 

The spiritual, historical, and intellectual richness of this great heritage has not yet been studied sufficiently. Traditional historians have given scant attention to this subject. As for those us who are fully aware of the importance of this question and of its role as an integral part of the glorious history of our order, we will limit ourselves to a simple mention as evidence of the legacy, while also promising a detailed study in the future. Because we realize the importance of the spiritual and character formation of the monks, we feel it is a subject that needs to be treated separately.

 

The spirituality of the order is transfigured through the various ascetic practices and intellectual exercises and through the writings of the founders and the reading of the believers.

 

Qaraalli finished his interpretation of these Rules in 1721. His work was entitled "The Monastic Lamp for the Explanation of the Lebanese Rule." This document was widely used in all the monasteries of Lebanon and the Middle East, where several copies still exist. There is, in particular, a copy in the author's handwriting at Saint Anthony's Monastery in Rome and it is dated 1721; there is also Manuscript No. 440 at the See of the Maronite Bishop of Aleppo and it dates back to 1727. Father George Mourani, a Lebanese Aleppine priest, printed the book at the Samya Press in 1956. After the Gospels, this book with its various sources and wealth of contents became the daily spiritual nourishment for the monks. In 1727, the sections written by Qaraalli, namely the poems and Ephrameeyat became well known in the churches and monasteries. They touched a responsive spiritual chord in the heart of the people. However, they soon caused an argument, as the Maronite hierarchy considered them too modern and alien to the Maronite belief and religious customs.

 

When Qaraalli became Bishop of the See of Beirut, a very sensitive post, during a period in which the overwhelming majority of Maronites still inhabited the mountain villages, he composed a book containing 32 chapters entitled "Summary of the Law" and another similar one entitled "Lebanese Jurisprudence." He did all this at the request of the Maronite Church authorities, who, ever since the Middle Ages, had been trying to legitimize its legislation. This work of Bishop Qaraalli constituted the most complete collection written until then. It included some of the essentials of all constitutions going back to the Romans, including those of Theodorius and Justinian as well as the Arabs.

 

Qaraalli’s collection, in conjunction with the decisions of General Chapters and the Councils of Assistants as well as the numerous property deeds and contract relating to mortmain and co-ownership and so on, all show that the order acquired a unique level of socioeconomic heritage beyond any other institution. Any scholar can find the manuscript of these two books in the Archives at Bkerke. The oldest dates to 1734. Peter Ghaleb published extracts from the "Summary" in numbers 5 and 6 in the "Patriarchal Magazine" of 1930 and 1931, while Paul Massad published the entire text in 1959. As to the "Lebanese Jurisprudence," it exists only in manuscript form. Father John Alwan analyzed these two books in his thesis, which he presented at the Lateran University in 1985.

 

With regard to Gabriel Farhat, who rivaled Qaraalli and surpassed him in several disciplines, he wrote several works that took front stage. The earliest are the following:

 

- Al-Mousallassat Al-Doreyet (The Scintillating Triads), written at the Monastery of Saint Elisha the Prophet in Bsharry in 1706.

 

- Al-Khotab Al-Beayat (The Ecclesiastical Sermons) in 1707.

 

- Deewan Farhat (The Collection of Farhat), a masterpiece of science and literature. There were several editions.

 

- Al-Kamal Al-Maseehy, (Christian Perfection). Farhat wrote it when he was Superior General.

 

- Al-‘Erab ‘An Lughat Al-‘Arab, a grammatical analysis of the Arabic language in 1723. There is one copy of this book at the library of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem and two copies at the "Bibliotheque Nationale" in Paris numbered par. ar. 4279, 4280. Roshayed Al-Dehdah had it printed and called it "Ahkam Bab Al-‘Erab ‘An Lughat Al-‘Arab: Rules of Analysis of the Arabic Language.”

 

- Synksar Al-Qeddeseen (Martyrology of Saints), completed in 1724.

 

- The Attainment of Eloquence in the Study of Literature. In this work, Farhat analyzes the different or new aspects of rhetoric and style. There is one copy, in the author's handwriting, at the library of the Maronite Diocese of Aleppo and another at the British Library under the reference ar. chr. 34 (1699). Inaam Fawwal obtained the first part about style and Dar Al-Mashreq published it in 1990 in the series entitled "Texts and Studies".

 

- Bahs Al-Mataleb Fi ‘Ilm Al-‘Arabeya. In this book, the author discusses Arabic grammar. This became a valuable source of reference for any student of Arabic morphology and syntax. It also became the essential manual in Lebanese schools for a long time. There are several editions and the latest is very recent.

 

Farhat's writings produced dual benefits: a mastery of linguistic and literary forms and the transmission of religious culture. Farhat took his examples from the Holy Bible and the teachings of the Church Fathers. The founders defined clearly the spirituality of the order by forming the Confraternity of Saint Anthony in 1725 and published his book in 1727. We have already mentioned the influence this saint had on the piety of the Maronites (Bleibel 1924: 229). They also arranged the periods of fasting and the cycle of religious feasts (Bleibel 1924: 204-208).

 

The founders also spiced up our Oriental spirituality with certain elements of Western practice that they brought with them from Aleppo. In 1727, they joined the Congregation of the Rosary and later the Confraternity of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They declared the Feast of Corpus Christi as a holy day of obligation in the order. They also began to celebrate the Passion of Christ every Friday night during Lent, beginning in 1743 (Bleibel 1924: 140-196, 374-375). These were the teachings of the First Golden Age, as the first period of the order came to be known.

 

V. PERIOD OF DIFFICULTIES (1742-1770) 

 

Shortly after the death of two of the founders, Farhat in 1732 and Qaraalli in 1742, Father Thomas Al-Labboudy, the former Superior General, was called to Rome to answer allegations brought against him. In 1742, the order experienced a very serious conflict. It lasted for over a quarter of a century and resulted in the order splitting up into the Lebanese Maronite Order (Baladite or Baladiya) and the Maronite Order of Aleppo (Halabiya) in 1768.

 

Historians have devoted extensive studies to this tumultuous period and have published numerous documents with various opinions about this split. Father Louis Bleibel devoted the second part of his history to this subject, and Abbot Peter Fahd dedicated the fourth part of his collection to the same topic (See Bleibel 1925, Fahd 1966). We believe that this upheaval rocked not only the order but also the Maronite Church and Mount Lebanon itself. It is history and should be relegated to the past.

 

As a result of this conflict, the Maronite Order simultaneously had two equal authorities as of December 1744. There were several attempts at reconciliation and reunification, but to no avail. All these efforts ended in failure in 1748 and the division became final in 1753. Patriarch Joseph Estephan (1766-1793) accepted it in 1768, and Pope Clement XIV (1769-1774) confirmed it by Papal Bull on July 19, 1770.

 

At this time, the number of the Lebanese Monks had reached 190, and only one had come from Aleppo. There were 61 Aleppine Monks and five of them were Lebanese. It should be noted that most of the monasteries that were in the order during the conflict, such as St. Michael at Bnabeel 1756, St. George at Al-Neameh 1757, and St. Moses the Ethiopian (Al-Habashy) at Douwar 1757, passed into the hands of the Baladite (Lebanese) Order. In 1766, Emir (Prince) Joseph Shehab took the advice of his two trusted advisers, Sheiks Saad Khoury and Simon Bitar, and transferred the administration of the monasteries and their properties in the Jbail and Batroun regions to the Lebanese Baladite Order. The order assumed full responsibility with great zeal. There was considerable development of the monastic and Christian presence in the whole region. Furthermore, the taxes generated from these properties were a welcome addition to the treasury of the Shehab Emirate.

 

VI. THE PERIOD OF DEVELOPMENT AND PROSPERITY (1770-1832)

 

The Lebanese Maronites lost little time recovering from the sad consequences of the split. They entered into a new period, lasting about 62 years that covered the last third of the eighteenth century and the first third of the nineteenth century. During this time, nearly 20 General Chapters were convened. Also during this period, highly qualified monks were appointed to positions of great responsibility. The order regained the dynamism of its beginnings and once again played a pioneering role in the organization of the Maronite Church. It took part in the regional synods that confirmed the decisions of the Lebanese Synod of 1736 and put an end to the difficulties caused by the case brought against the nun Hindiyeh.[iv]

 

In July 1780, the order hosted the Synod of Mayfouq at Mayfouq monastery and assumed all the expenses (Bleibel 1959: 57). The order became a trusted source of counsel for the Maronite Church. Thus, in 1783 Cardinal Antonelli consulted Superior General, Father Mark (Marcos) Haddad Al-Kifaai, about the reliability of Patriarch Joseph Estephan and in 1784, Patriarch Estephan himself asked the order to help administer the Maronite Church (Bleibel 1959: 80-81).

 

In September of 1786, the Order took part in the Synod of Wata Al-Jawz. It sent a high delegation to the Synod of Bkerke held on December 13, 1790. This delegation included Superior General Emmanuel Gemayel (1790-1793, 1796-1799, 1802-1805, 1808-1810), his assistant Father Mark Al-Kifaai, Father Ni'matallah Najjar, and Father Emmanuel Al-Rashnawy, who represented the Bishop of Aleppo. During this Synod, they decided that the Superior General was to become part of the Maronite hierarchy, immediately below bishop in prominence. The Lebanese Order allotted the Maronite Patriarchate a regular sum of money called "pension or wages", to be used as needed. This amount increased as years went by (Bleibel 1959: 18).

 

By participating effectively in the regional synods, the Lebanese Order hoped to coordinate with the Maronite Patriarch and the Bishops the mission of pastoral services and education in schools. Generally, the order was able to overcome the obstacles it encountered, particularly in churches in the Jbail region and at Saint Taqla in Mrouj.

 

The order also acquired exclusive rights for the distribution of the so-called “Saint Anthony books”  [i.e. “writings": once handwritten but now printed, the prayer is folded into a triangle and then enclosed in a prayer pouch along with a relic, crucifix or religious medal, which is worn around the neck] and granting indulgences. However, the order did not succeed in having one of its monks consecrated as bishop. This would have enabled its priest to be ordained by its own bishop at its own altars.

 

During this period, more printing was done, mostly religious material to be used by the monks at daily prayers. Again, the order acquired a printing press [5] and initially installed it in the Monastery of Saint Moses the Ethiopian (Mar Moussa Al-Habashy) at Douwar. It was later moved in the early nineteenth century to the Monastery of Saint Anthony (Mar Antonios) at Qozhaya. The order spent a considerable amount of money on equipment and general upkeep, but the typesetting and printing methods remained very primitive until the second half of the nineteenth century. The supply of books could not meet the demand and spiritual books were still copied by hand. The press of the Propagation of Faith in Rome continued as the supplier when a large number of copies was required. "Al-Shheemeh" (Breviary), a collection of daily prayers of the Brothers living in Rome, was published in 1781 (Bleibel 1925: 73).

 

The Breviary and the guide for celebrating the Liturgy or the Mass were published at Saint Moses the Ethiopian in 1789 (Bleibel 1925: 108). The printing of the Anaphora of the Liturgy took place for the first time in 1816 at the Monastery of Saint Anthony at Qozhaya. Joseph Dibs, Bishop of Beirut, reprinted it at the end of the nineteenth century (Bleibel 1925: 230). The Breviary was also reprinted, this time in Rome, when Father Antonios Al-Shammouty was sent there in 1828 and 1830. Mr. Mathew (Matta) Shehwan supervised the editing and Mr. Ghantous Kouba paid the cost (Bleibel 1925: 261-262, 271). No significant writings is worthy of comparison to the literary works of the early days of the order.

 

The order also achieved notable economical progress during this period, which became known as the Second Golden Age. It consolidated its presence in the already established centers and ventured out in new regions. Listed below is a summary of its achievements in Mount Lebanon.

 

In 1771, the order rented land on Mount Toura from the Barra family, Kfarhouma nobles. The order subsequently acquired ownership of the entire parcel and attached it to the Monastery of Our Lady of Mashmoushy (Bleibel 1925: 8). The same year, the order began construction of the Church of Saint Joseph in Baskinta (Bleibel 1925: 54). The order also extended itself into new territories, especially in the Zahly region where the Abillamaa Emirs (Princes), feudal lords of the region, donated a piece of land to the Order to build a religious house (Ontoush) and to construct a church which would serve the peasants and sharecroppers who worked for these lords (Bleibel 1925: 13, 20).

 

In 1772, the Order entered into a joint venture with the Hammady family at a farm in Kfarshally near Mayfouq (Bleibel 1925: 12). It founded the Monastery of Mar Abda at Maad and the following year built a school in 1773 (Bleibel 1925: 73). It bought half of the land at Saint Shina Kfarzayna from Sheik Daher in 1781 (29). It rented half the land at Mjaydel-Koura from Sheik Ghandour Al-Khoury and attached it to the Convent of Saint Elias Al-Rass in 1781. In the same year, the order acquired land in Bsarma from Emir Ali-Shehab by paying the taxes on the land (Bleibel 1925: 75). 

 

 

Our Lady of Mayfouq Monastery, Mayfoug, Lebanon.

Photo: Courtesy of the Lebanese Maronite Order, Lebanon, 1998.

 

The Ashqar Family, in 1785, gave the order the Monastery of St. Anthony at Beit Shabab in mortmain (Bleibel 1925: 84). In 1786, the order bought land near St. George Monastery at Naameh from the benefactor Sheik Kenaan Nakd, and in 1801, half of Jal-Al-Bahr was also acquired and attached to this monastery (Bleibel 1925: 88, 153). In 1788, the order also received land in Wadi Shahrour from Emir Joseph Shehab in order to build a church that would serve the children of sharecroppers (Bleibel 1925: 101).

 

- In 1792, the Order was given Saint Taqla's Church in Mrouj  

                  (Bleibel 1925: 124).

 

- The Ghassoub Family donated in mortmain, property in Beit al-Sheaar and Frayeky in 1800 (Bleibel 1925: 152).

 

- In 1805 the order received the mortmain of Suzan Germain at Aashash. This gift brought with it complications and lawsuits that were settled amicably in 1832 (Bleibel 1925: 175).

 

- In 1806, the Order received property in Baan to build a school (Bleibel 1925: 190).

 

- In 1811, Emir Bashir Shehab donated land to Superior General, Father Ignatios Bleibel (1811-1832) at Maallaqat Zahly for the construction of a religious house (Ontoush) and a church to serve the peasants. However, the Emir imposed several strict conditions, such as forbidding the order from hiring his sharecroppers or their animals to cultivate the land (Bleibel 1925: 209). The settlement of the order in these regions strengthened the Christian presence in the Beqaa Valley and the surrounding areas. At the same time, it also established a strong link between these regions and Mount Lebanon.

 

- The order established Saint Maron Monastery at Annaya as of 1814 and attached to it lands purchased in Kfarbeaal (Bleibel 1925:241, 264).

 

- It increased its presence in the hills around Jbail; and in 1815, it received the mortmain of Saints Sarkis and Bacchus at Qartaba, where it built a school for the local residents (Bleibel 1925: 220).

 

- The purchase of an orchard in Ajaltoun in 1818 led to problems for the order (Bleibel 1925: 239).

 

- Thanks to Emir Bashir II, the order was able to buy land in the Laqlouq region in 1827, and attached it to Our Lady of Mayfouq's Monastery (Bleibel 1925: 260). Superior General Father Ignatios Bleibel personally handled these projects, which contributed to a flourishing Christianity in these regions.

 

- In 1831, the order founded a school at Rass Al-Matn, but had to abandon it when the Abillamaa Emirs left the area (Bleibel 1925: 275).

 

The Ottoman governors (Walis) continuously harassed the Shehab Emirs throughout this period. They confiscated crops, exhorted money, killed the inhabitants and seized properties in Mount Lebanon. Driven by their greed, they exploited the region according to their whims, without any pity for the population or concern for the good of the country. The despotism and cruelty of Ahmad Basha surpassed anything in history.

 

Governors and feudal lords used the most far-fetched pretexts to extort taxes from the order. Oppressed by this fiscal burden, the order frequently asked the authorities to review the official "cadastre" in order to put an end to this tyranny and injustice. The "cadastre" was the land survey that showed the correct boundaries and estimated its productive capacity. Taxes were based on the result of this survey. Here are some examples of what this could imply: in 1787, Emir Joseph (Yousef) Shehab appointed a committee to survey the lands belonging to St. Anthony Monastery at Qozhaya (Bleibel 1925: 95) and in 1791, Emir Shehab II imposed a tax equal to 30 measures.

 

Following the intervention of Superior General, Father Emmanuel Gemayel, the Emir reduced his demand, thus lowering it to 8,400 piastres. The Council of Assistants suggested that this burden be shared among the different monasteries (Bleibel 1925: 114).

 

In 1802, the sons of Emir Joseph Shehab ordered a survey of the lands of Saints Cyprian and Justine's Monasteries at Kfifan and Saint Elias Al-Rass (Bleibel 1925: 158). Emir Bashir II imposed an exorbitant tax on all the order's properties in the Jbail and Batroun regions in 1812, but modified his demands at the request of the Superior General, Father Ignatios Bleibel (Bleibel 1925: 212). He ordered a new land survey for the monastery at Zaweeye, at the request of Superior General Bleibel, in order to alleviate the injustices committed against the Order (Bleibel 1925: 273-274).

 

The order often paid not only the taxes exacted on its properties, but also those imposed on its sharecroppers and the poor. It considered this action to be a national duty that would help ensure the stability and legitimacy of the Shehab Emirate and, at the same time, protect the autonomy of Mount Lebanon where the order had flourished. The Superior General, Father Ignatios Bleibel, who was elected seven times – approximately 22 years – as head of the order deserves much of the credit for showing such great understanding of the situation. There was a solid friendship between him and Emir Bashir Shehab II. However, Emir Amin, Emir Bashir's son, turned against the Superior General who refused to lend him the price of a farm at Majdel Aqoura. The Emir encouraged a rebellion among a group of disgruntled monks who had complained about the long and extended mandate of the Superior General. When the General Chapter met at the monastery of Our Lady of Tamish in 1832, the majority of the monks were ready to renew Father Bleibel’s mandate for another term. However, the minority staged a sit-in at the monastery of Saint Joseph Al-Bourj. The Maronite Patriarch was called to mediate between the two parties and as a result, Father Bleibel gave up his position as Superior General in order to avoid the danger of a split in the order. As a compromise, Father Benedict Halayhal was elected Superior General (1832-1835) and so this period ended with repercussions felt for years to come.