(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
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.