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haifa stella maris

Set on the pinnacle of the Carmel, behind the old Haifa’s lighthouse, Stella Maris Monastery a remarkable landmark in today’s city and the international headquarters of the Carmelites. The Carmelite monastic movement was established in the Crusaders period. In 1767 the they acquired a plot above ‘Elijah’s Cave‘ for a new monastery. It was completed almost a century later, but was in use by Napoleon in 1799.

Napoleon and Stella Maris Monastery

Among others, Napoleon Bonaparte had an ambitious plan to conquer and reign over the Middle East. In 1798, he conquered Egypt and started marching north, along Israel’s coastline, to capture its coastal cities. Haifa was just a farm at the time, so he had no obstacle. But Akko was well fortified then, and despite five repeated attacks, Napoleon failed to conquer it. Defeated and humiliated, Napoleon retreated to Egypt, leaving 15 of his soldiers who fell ill from a plague, in Stella Maris Monastery. Later, Ottoman forces broke into the monastery, slaughtered the sick soldiers, and drove out the monks.

stella-maris-pyramid-napoleaon-monumentEventually, the monks returned and buried the bodies of the French soldiers in front of the monastery. Above it, they erected a Pyramid-shaped monument bearing a biblical quote: “How the mighty have fallen in battle. “ That monument stands in front of the monastery to this day.

The monastery’s main church is built over a sacred cave. By local tradition, Elijah hid here from Queen Jezebel (1 King 19). Later, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, upon their return from Egypt, also sheltered in this cave. The Church’s dome is painted with detailed scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. The side walls bear memorials to four Carmelite Saints. A small room right of the entryway exhibits artifacts found in and around the monastery. Some indicate that the Pagans also revered this part of the Carmel.

Touring Stella Maris Monastery

The monastery is open every day of the week 9:00 to 12:00, and 15:00 to 18:00. Visitors are requested to dress modestly.

A visit to Stella Maris Monastery can be combined a day tour to Caesarea and Haifa, or a day tour in the north.

Contact us to inquire more about a private tour to Stella Maris:

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