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Stella Maris Monastery

Israel

 

Perched at the western edge of Mount Carmel, high above the Mediteranean and the coastal city of Haifa, is Stella Maris Monastery and church.

Stella Maris Monastery

Stella Maris Church on Mount Carmel (Ilan)

The name of the 19th-century monastery — Latin for “Star of the Sea” — refers not to the magnificent view, but rather to an early title accorded Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The monastery is the world headquarters of a Catholic religious order of friars and nuns, the Carmelites.

The order had its origins at the end of the 12th century when St Berthold, a Frenchman who had gone to the Holy Land as a Crusader, had a vision of Christ denouncing the evil done by soldiers.

 

Hermits lived in caves

Berthold gathered a small community of hermits around him, living in caves on Mount Carmel, in imitation of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Later the community became known as the Hermit Brothers of St Mary of Mount Carmel.

Stella Maris Monastery

Eastern facade of Stella Maris Monastery (© Deror Avi / Wikimedia)

In 1206 the community received a written rule from St Albert of Jerusalem. In the same century, some members moved to Europe and established similar groups from Sicily to Oxford. Those who remained in the Holy Land were massacred by the Saracens in 1291.

Carmelites returned to Mount Carmel in 1631 and finally completed the Stella Maris Monastery in the 18th century. Its stout walls and small openings reflect the need for defence against hostilities during its establishment.

Later a lighthouse was built, giving a further meaning to the title Stella Maris. Because of its commanding position, the lighthouse has been commandeered as a military establishment.

 

Elijah connected to two grottoes

Inside the church, the décor features vividly coloured Italian marble and dramatic paintings in the dome, one depicting Elijah being swept up to heaven in a fiery chariot. A cedar and porcelain statue of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is above the altar.

Stella Maris Monastery

Statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Stella Maris Church (© George David Byers)

Steps lead down to a grotto, with a small altar, where the Old Testament prophet Elijah is believed to have occasionally lived. People have lived in caves on Mount Carmel since prehistoric times.

Opposite the monastery, a steep footpath down toward the Mediterranean leads to a larger grotto, Elijah’s Cave, where the prophet is said to have meditated before his victory over the prophets of Baal, described in 1 Kings 18: 1-40.

The cave — which is venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims — is also thought to be where Elijah established a “school of prophets”, where his successor Elisha, among others, studied.

In the garden of Stella Maris Church, a monument is dedicated to wounded French soldiers who were killed by the Mamluk governor Ahmed Pasha el-Jazzar after Napoleon withdrew in 1799.

 

Other sites in the area:

Mount Carmel

Elijah’s Cave

Baha’i Shrine

 

In Scripture:

Elijah triumphs over the priests of Baal: 1 Kings 18:1-40

Elijah prays on Mount Carmel: 1 Kings 18:41-46

Administered by: Order of Carmelites

Tel.: 972-4-8337758

Open: 6am-12.30pm, 3-6pm

 

References

Blaiklock, E. M.: Eight Days in Israel (Ark Publishing, 1980)
Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)

 

External links

Carmelite Monastery, Stella Maris (BibleWalks)
The Carmelites of the Holy Land
The Carmelite Order (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Order of Carmelites (Carmelite Order)

 

 

Elijah’s Cave

Israel

 

The caves of Mount Carmel were well known to Elijah, the Old Testament prophet. Here he sometimes lived — and sometimes had to hide.

Elijah's Cave

Statue of Elijah at Mukhraka (© Biblicalisraeltours.com)

On the northern slope of Mount Carmel, near the Haifa beach, is a cave where the prophet is believed to have meditated before his fateful encounter with the priests of Baal.

In this encounter, described in 1 Kings 18:1-40, Elijah issued a challenge to 450 pagan priests. Before an assembly on the summit of Mount Carmel, he called on the priests to seek fire from their god Baal to light a sacrifice.

When Baal failed to respond to their pleading, Elijah rebuilt the ruined altar of the Lord and offered his own sacrifice. Immediately fire from heaven consumed the offering, even though it had been soaked in water.

 

Venerated by four faiths

Elijah’s Cave can be approached by stairs from Allenby Road, near Haifa’s cable car. It is also accessible down a steep path from the Carmelite church on Stella Maris Road.

Elijah's Cave

Entry to Elijah’s Cave, males to the right, females to the left (© BibleWalks.com)

The cave, about 14 metres long, is situated in a residential dwelling. It is open to the public, with separate areas for males and females. Adjacent buildings served as a hostel from the late 19th century.

Elijah is venerated by Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze, all of whom come as pilgrims. Writings left by pilgrims in past centuries can be seen on the cave walls.

Curative properties have been ascribed to the cave over the years, including the curing of mental illnesses.

Possible site of ‘school of prophets’

Among the traditions associated with the cave is that Elijah hid here from the wrath of Jezebel, who had introduced worship of her Phoenician god Baal to the land.

Elijah's Cave

Women’s section of Elijah’s Cave (Daniel Ventura)

It is also thought that Elijah established a “school of prophets” here on his return from exile at Mount Sinai. If so, this would be where his successor Elisha, among others, studied.

No Old Testament prophet is referred to as frequently in the New Testament as Elijah. Both Jesus and John the Baptist were on occasions thought to be reincarnations of Elijah.

A small cave under Stella Maris Monastery, at the western edge of Mount Carmel, is held by a Christian tradition to be a place where Elijah also occasionally lived.

Other sites in the area:

Mount Carmel

Stella Maris Monastery

Baha’i Shrine

 

In Scripture:

Elijah triumphs over the priests of Baal: 1 Kings 18:1-40

 

Administered by: Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs

Open: Sun-Thur 8am-5pm, Fri 8am-1pm

References

Blaiklock, E. M.: Eight Days in Israel (Ark Publishing, 1980)
Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)

 

External links

Elijah’s Cave, Carmel (BibleWalks)
Elijah’s Cave, Haifa (Sacred Destinations)

 

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