Stella Maris Monastery
Located on the west side of Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean and the city of Haifa, lies the 19th century Stella Maris Monastery and church. The name means “Star of the Sea,” and it’s Latin origin denotes the title given to Mary, the mother of our Lord. Home to the world headquarters of the Carmelites, a Catholic religious order of friars and nuns, its origins formed at the end of the 12th Century when Frenchman and Holy Land Crusader, St. Berthold had a vision of Christ denouncing the evil the soldiers committed.
St. Berthold brought a group of solitaries to live around him in the caves of Mount Carmel, similar to the Old Testament prophet Elijah. This small community of hermits became known as the Hermit Brothers of St. Mary of Mount Carmel. An order was given in 1206 to the community from St. Albert of Jerusalem. Some members moved to Europe, establishing smaller groups along the way. Those who remained in the Holy Land were killed by Saracens in 1291. Later, in 1631, the Carmelites returned to Mount Carmel and began work to complete the Stella Maris Monastery. It was completed in the 18th century, and was built with strong walls and small window openings, in order to protect against offenders during its construction.
A lighthouse was later constructed, solidifying the meaning of the “Star of the Sea.” That structure is now a military setting.
The interior of the church at Stella Maris is the home to incredible architecture and beautiful Italian marble. A porcelain statue of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, sits above the altar, and a painting reflecting Elijah’s ascent to heaven in the fiery chariot ordains the walls.
Since ancient times, people have lived in caves on Mount Carmel, and it is also believed that Old Testament prophet Elijah occasionally lived in one of these grottos. Elijah’s Cave, where he is believed to have prayed before his triumphant victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:1-40), lies down a steep path near the Mediterranean. This cave is believed to be where Elisha studied and developed his “school of prophets”.
Video curtesy of: cmc-terrasanta.org
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