Saint Mariam Bawardi (Baouardi)
Mariam Bawardi was a Palestinian girl from the village of Ibillin in Galilee. Her remarkable story of faith and perseverance is well documented. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 13 November 1983, a term used in the Catholic Church for the first stage towards sainthood. Mariam is much revered by Israeli Palestinian Christians especially those living in Ibillin. Her photographs, pictures and now icons are to be seen in all the churches in the village and in Christian houses too where they are displayed in a prominent and important position. For a community that has suffered much since the mid1940’s Mariam Bawardi is a calmer of troubles, an inspiration and a symbol of hope for the future.
The foundations of Mariam’s family home in Ibillin where she grew up are still visible and a small shrine has been set up by villagers on the site. Although very simple, a construction of unmortared stones and a corrugated iron roof laid across the top, the shrine is visited by villagers daily, pausing in their daily tasks to light candles and pray.
The family who now owns the site has set to work to rebuild her house. The head of the family is Assad, an architect and historian. Working from photographs and evidence remaining on the ground, he is painstakingly rebuilding the house using the same type of materials as the original, even lime mortar instead of the modern cement mortar. Mariam’s father had been a manufacturer of gunpowder (Baouard means gunpowder) and the original stone vessel that he used for his potions is still in existence in the village.
At the beginning of the excavation work around the site, the remains of a Roman building were discovered less that a metre below the surface. The Roman site is thought to be earlier than the 1st century AD and is now protected by the Israeli department of Antiquities. Stone steps, an arch into a lower room and a grave have been revealed. Also stones with basin shaped holes in the tops are in the site. It is thought they may have been used in wine making.
Beside the Melkite Greek Catholic church a short distance down the road a new chapel dedicated to Mariam Bawardi is under construction.
Click here for a video produced by students at Mar Elias Educational Institutions with footage of the annual evening procession through the streets of Ibillin to mark the day of Mariam Bawardi, 26th August.