By Guita G. Hourani
Religious vestments, crowns and prayer books.
Photo courtesy of Fr. Sami El-Khoury (Lebanon, 1998)
By MARI's Staff
In conjunction with the inauguration of the new church dome and the centennial celebration of Saint Michael's Church in the village of Douk in the Batroun District, an exhibit of rare church artifacts and vestments was shown for the first time.
Father Sami El-Khoury, pastor of the church, began collecting the articles on display in 1980. He was born in Douk, graduated from Saint Joseph University in Beirut and holds a Doctorate in Theology.
The exhibition consists of more than 300 items. They include religious vestments such as copes, stoles, and albs; crowns, altar cloths, chalices, and reliquaries; and breviaries, prayer books, and copies of the Acts of the Apostles and various anaphoras, etc. Most items date back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
There are four important and rare items on display. The first, a priest's vestment woven by the famous artisans of the village of Zouk, contains the following inscription in Karshouni (Arabic written in Syriac script): "Congratulations to Bishop Youssef al-Marid from his maternal uncle, Bechara Doumyati, Zouk 1856." Another vestment is a gift from Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, presented to Bishop Boutros al-Boustani following the 1860 massacres of Christians and the burning of churches and monasteries. This later came into the possession of Bishop Boulos Basbous from Grabta. The third notable piece --a hand-forged or hammered silver chalice-- was a gift to one of the foreign missions from Monsieur Francois Piquet, Consul of France in Aleppo from 1652 to 1662. The fourth treasure is a portion of the Ibn al-Hilal Bible which was published in Rome in 1591 and is illustrated with wood-block engravings.
Remarkably, these pieces have survived despite all that Saint Michael's church has suffered. Many vestments of natural dyed silk with hand embroidered religious symbols of gold and silver thread were burned. One such symbol, which represents Christ's passion and death, is that of a Pelican feeding its nestlings from the blood of its pierced heart.
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