The new ‘Church of the Sermon on the Mount’ was built as the chapel for the Mar Elias Educational Institutions Campus, Ibillin. The lower floor is a large auditorium used for student graduation ceremonies, drama and concert productions. Being the largest indoor space in the village, it is also used for some other community purposes. The church is on the upper floor accessed by an impressive flight of steps on which are carved the ‘Beatitudes’. While the interior of the church follows traditional Melkite design, the exterior is unusual, being in the shape of a boat, Noah’s Ark. The inspiration for the design was as a result of the restrictions of the plot of land available for the structure ie Archbishop Chacour’s vegetable garden.
One of the many significant aspects of the interior is the large pink marble altar (see photo below). It is not ornate, nor does it look in any way remarkable. But what is remarkable is that it was given to the church by a Muslim man and is a testament to the work of decades by Archbishop Chacour and Muslim leaders in their respective religious communities to reconcile the population of the village.
The internal decoration was designed by Sr Bernadette from the UK in consultation with Archbishop Chacour. The iconography was written (painted) by Sr Bernadette. Some members of the British Association of Iconographers helped with the Festal icons on the iconostasis. This mammoth task took seven years.
A three minute video of the inauguration of the new church is available here.
© Ashray 2012