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Churches and Crusader Castle
(16 Km from Batroun)

    In the center of the village is the old church of Mar Nohra, said to be the burial place of this Lebanese saint, who was a Persian Christian missionary. Partially built  with temple debris, the north side of this picturesque church has been modernized. The oldest part is the south wall, which incorporates a medieval window and sections of temple columns. The church features a



typical outside stone staircase and a bell tower. The front entrance is decorated with three sculpted chains carved from a single stone, a design also found on the portal of the Hammam al Jadid in Tripoli. The remains of an earlier church stand nearby. A simple vaulted structure, one of its corners appears to be a section of a classical altar.
    From the southwest of the church you can walk to a hill where the Crusader castle stands on rock-cut foundations. Smar Jbail was part of the crusader  fief of Saint Montagne of the Lords of Batroun. The Crusaders built walls of bossed stone and rubble and surrounded the fortress with a rock-cut moat. Within the inner courtyard stands a central keep along whose north wall is a well preserved cistern covered by a pointed arch. The simplicity of its plan, which is similar in arrangement and appearance to the Byblos Castle, as well as the square tower, date this fortress to the early 12th century.
    The area around the castle is worth exploring. Oil and other presses, some in very good condition, are cut into the limestone hillside below the southwest part of the castle. This prominent rocky hilltop may have been an ancient high place or temple. In the cliffs to the north below the castle are tomb chambers and some very worn bas reliefs of standing, seated and kneeling figures that predate the castle. These reliefs, carved above the entrance of the funerary caves, are similar to those found in Ghineh or Machnaqa in Mount Lebanon or Qana in the South.

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