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Lebanese Maronite Christians

Lebanese Maronite Christians
المسيحيين الموارنة اللبنانيين
Distribution of Maronite Catholic Christians in Lebanon
Vernacular: Lebanese Arabic; historically Lebanese Aramaic
Liturgical: Classical Syriac
Christianity (Maronite Catholic)

Lebanese Maronite Christians (Arabic: المسيحية المارونية في لبنان; Classical Syriac: ܡܫܝܚܝ̈ܐ ܡܪ̈ܘܢܝܐ ܕܠܒܢܢ) refers to Lebanese people who are members of the Maronite Church in Lebanon, the largest Christian denomination in the country.[1] The Lebanese Maronite population is concentrated mainly in Mount Lebanon and East Beirut.[2] They are believed to constitute about 30% of the total population of Lebanon.[1]

The Maronite Catholics and the Druze founded modern Lebanon in the early eighteenth century through the ruling and social system known as the "Maronite–Druze dualism".[3] The 1860 Druze–Maronite conflict led to the establishment of Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, an autonomous entity within the Ottoman Empire dominated by Maronites and protected by European powers. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Maronites successfully campaigned for Greater Lebanon carved out from Mount Lebanon and neighboring areas. Under the French Mandate, and until the end of the Second World War, the Maronites gained substantial influence. Post-independence, they dominated Lebanese politics until the 1975–1990 civil war, which ended their supremacy. While the Taif Accords weakened Maronite influence, it endures alongside other dominant Lebanese communities, such as the Shiites and Sunnis.[2]

Lebanon's constitution was intended to guarantee political representation for each of the nation's religious groups.[4] Under the terms of an unwritten agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, the president of the country must be a Maronite.[5]


Two important Maronite Christian symbols on Sassine Square, Achrafieh: A statue of Saint Charbel, the most important Maronite saint; and a billboard on a side of a building showing Bachir Gemayel, the Maronite militia leader during the Civil War.
Christian Church and Druze Khalwa in Shuf Mountains: In the early 18th century the Maronites and the Druze set the foundation for what is now Lebanon.[6]

The cultural and linguistic heritage of the Lebanese people is a blend of both indigenous Phoenician elements and the foreign cultures that have come to rule the land and its people over the course of thousands of years. In a 2013 interview the lead investigator of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, Pierre Zalloua, pointed out that genetic variation preceded religious variation and divisions: "Lebanon already had well-differentiated communities with their own genetic peculiarities, but not significant differences, and religions came as layers of paint on top. There is no distinct pattern that shows that one community carries significantly more Phoenician than another."[7]

The Maronite population in Lebanon has a rich history. Its foundation can be traced back to early followers of Maron, who migrated from the region of Antioch to Mount Lebanon. Historically, Lebanese Maronites resided in remote mountain villages and were led by influential noble families.[2]

The followers of Jesus Christ first became known as "Christians" in the ancient Greek city of Antioch (Acts 11:26), and the city became a center for Christianity especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. According to Catholic tradition, the first Bishop was Saint Peter before his travels to Rome. The third Bishop was the Apostolic Father Ignatius of Antioch. Antioch became one of the five original Patriarchates (the Pentarchy) after Constantine recognized Christianity.

The Maronite Christianity derived its name and religious identity from Saint Maron whose followers migrated to the area of Mount Lebanon (present day Republic of Lebanon) from their previous location of residence around the area of Antioch (an ancient Greek city within present day Hatay Province, Turkey), establishing the nucleus of the Maronite Church.[8]

More specifically, Maron, a fourth-century monk and the contemporary and friend of St. John Chrysostom, left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead an ascetic life, following the traditions of Anthony the Great of the Desert and Pachomius. Many of his followers also lived a monastic lifestyle. Following the death of Maron in 410, his disciples built a monastery in his memory and formed the nucleus of the Maronite Church.

The Maronites held fast to the beliefs of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. When the Monophysites of Antioch slew 350 monks, the Maronites sought refuge in the mountains of Lebanon. Correspondence concerning the event brought the Maronites papal and orthodox recognition, which was solidified by Pope Hormisdas (514–523) on February 10, 518. A monastery was built around the shrine of St. Maro (Marun) after the Council of Chalcedon.[9]

The martyrdom of the Patriarch of Antioch in the first decade of the seventh century, either at the hands of Persian soldiers or local Jews,[10] left the Maronites without a leader, a situation which continued because of the final and most devastating Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628. In the aftermath of the war, the Emperor Heraclius propagated a new Christological doctrine in an attempt to unify the various Christian churches of the east, who were divided over accepting the Council of Chalcedon. This doctrine, monothelitism, was meant as a compromise between supporters of Chalcedon, such as the Maronites, and opponents, such as the Jacobites. To win back the Monophysites, Monoenergism was first advocated by Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople. Pope Honorius I (625–638) of Rome naively called for an end to dispute and interpreted Sergius' view as true since Christ exhibited only one will insofar as His sinless human will never disagreed with His divine will.

Instead, the Patriarch of Constantinople's doctrine and subsequent Monothelitism caused greater controversy and was declared a heresy at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. Contemporary Greek, Latin and Arab sources indicate that the Maronites accepted monothelitism, rejected the sixth council, and continued to maintain a belief in the largely discredited monothelite doctrine for centuries, only moving away from monothelitism in the time of the crusades in order to avoid being branded heretics by the crusaders.[11] The modern Maronite Church, however, rejects the assertion that the Maronites were ever monothelites separated from the rest of the universal Church. The question remains a cause of significant offence to this day.[12]

In 687, the Emperor Justinian II agreed to evacuate many thousand Maronites from Lebanon and settle them elsewhere. The chaos and utter depression which followed led the Maronites to elect their first Patriarch, John Maroun, that year. This, however, was seen as a usurpation by the then undivided Orthodox Catholic church. Thus, at a time when Islam was rising on the borders of the Byzantine Empire and a united front was necessary to keep out Islamic infiltration, the Maronites were focused on a struggle to retain their independence against imperial power. This situation was mirrored in other Christian communities in the Byzantine Empire and helped facilitate the Muslim conquest of most of Eastern Christendom by the end of the century.

The relationship between the Druze and Christians has been characterized by harmony and peaceful coexistence,[13][14][15][16] with amicable relations between the two groups prevailing throughout history, with the exception of some periods, including 1860 Mount Lebanon civil war.[17][18] The Maronite Catholics and the Druze founded modern Lebanon in the early Eighteenth Century, through a governing and social system known as the "Maronite-Druze dualism" in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate.[19]



Maronite division among main Syriac Christian groups.

The Maronites belong to the Maronite Syriac Church of Antioch (a former ancient Syrian city now in Hatay Province, Turkey) is an Eastern Catholic Syriac Church that had affirmed its communion with Rome since 1180, although the official view of the Church is that it had never accepted either the Monophysitic views held by their Syriac neighbours, which were condemned in the Council of Chalcedon, or the failed compromise doctrine of Monothelitism (the latter claim being found in contemporary sources).[20] The Maronite Patriarch is traditionally seated in Bkerke, north of Beirut.

Geographic distribution within Lebanon

Lebanese Maronite Christians are concentrated in the north Beirut, northern part of Mount Lebanon Governorate, southern part of North Governorate, parts of Beqaa Governorate and South Governorate.[21]


Lebanese Maronites[22][23]
Year Percent

Note that the following percentages are estimates only. However, in a country that had last census in 1932, it is difficult to have correct population estimates.

The last Census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Maronites at 60%.[22] A study done by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1985 put the numbers of Maronites at 46% of the population.[22]

In 2012, Maronites constituted 31% of Lebanon's population, according to estimates.[23] The Maronite Church's website claims 1,062,000 members were in Lebanon in 1994 which would have made them around 31% of Lebanon's population.[24] Maronite Catholics are the largest Christian group, followed by Greek Orthodox.[25]

Percentage growth of the Lebanese Maronite Christians (other sources est.)[26][23][27][28][29][30][31]
Year Maronite Population Total Lebanese Population Percentage
1861 208,180 487,600 42.7%
1921 199,181 609,069 32.7%
1932 226,378 785,543 28.8%
1956 423,708 1,407,858 30.1%
1975 586,500 2,550,000 23%
1988 999,672 4,044,784 24.7%

Lebanese Maronite–born notable people

Pierre Gemayel, Founder of the Lebanese Kataeb

See also


  1. ^ a b Department Of State. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs (19 September 2008). "Lebanon". Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Najem, Tom; Amore, Roy C.; Abu Khalil, As'ad (2021). Historical Dictionary of Lebanon. Historical Dictionaries of Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East (2nd ed.). Lanham Boulder New York London: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 205–206. ISBN 978-1-5381-2043-9.
  3. ^ Deeb, Marius (2013). Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah: The Unholy Alliance and Its War on Lebanon. Hoover Press. ISBN 9780817916664. the Maronites and the Druze, who founded Lebanon in the early eighteenth century.
  4. ^ Jamie Stokes, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. Facts On File, Incorporated: Infobase Publishing. p. 447. ISBN 978-1-4381-2676-0.
  5. ^ "Programme on Governance in the Arab Region: Elections: Lebanon". United Nations Development Programme. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  6. ^ Deeb, Marius (2013). Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah: The Unholy Alliance and Its War on Lebanon. Hoover Press. ISBN 9780817916664. the Maronites and the Druze, who founded Lebanon in the early eighteenth century.
  7. ^ Maroon, Habib (31 March 2013). "A geneticist with a unifying message". Nature. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  8. ^ Mannheim, Ivan (2001). Syria & Lebanon handbook: the travel guide. Footprint Travel Guides. pp. 652–563. ISBN 978-1-900949-90-3.
  9. ^ Attwater, Donald; The Christian Churches of the East
  10. ^ Frendo, J. D. (1982). "Who Killed Anastasius II?". The Jewish Quarterly Review. 72 (3): 202–204. doi:10.2307/1454219. ISSN 0021-6682. JSTOR 1454219.
  11. ^ Crawford, Robert W. (1955). "William of Tyre and the Maronites". Speculum. 30 (2): 222–228. doi:10.2307/2848470. ISSN 0038-7134. JSTOR 2848470. S2CID 163021809.
  12. ^ Moosa, Matti (1986). The Maronites in History. Syracuse University Press. pp. 195–216. ISBN 978-0-8156-2365-6.
  13. ^ Hazran, Yusri (2013). The Druze Community and the Lebanese State: Between Confrontation and Reconciliation. Routledge. p. 32. ISBN 9781317931737. the Druze had been able to live in harmony with the Christian
  14. ^ Artzi, Pinḥas (1984). Confrontation and Coexistence. Bar-Ilan University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9789652260499. .. Europeans who visited the area during this period related that the Druze "love the Christians more than the other believers," and that they "hate the Turks, the Muslims and the Arabs [Bedouin] with an intense hatred.
  15. ^ CHURCHILL (1862). The Druzes and the Maronites. Montserrat Abbey Library. p. 25. ..the Druzes and Christians lived together in the most perfect harmony and good-will..
  16. ^ Hobby (1985). Near East/South Asia Report. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. p. 53. the Druzes and the Christians in the Shuf Mountains in the past lived in complete harmony..
  17. ^ Fawaz, L.T. (1994). An Occasion for War: Civil Conflict in Lebanon and Damascus in 1860. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520087828. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  18. ^ Vocke, Harald (1978). The Lebanese war: its origins and political dimensions. C. Hurst. p. 10. ISBN 0-903983-92-3.
  19. ^ Deeb, Marius (2013). Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah: The Unholy Alliance and Its War on Lebanon. Hoover Press. ISBN 9780817916664. the Maronites and the Druze, who founded Lebanon in the early eighteenth century.
  20. ^ Moosa, M (2005). The Maronites in History. Gorgias Press LLC. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-1-59333-182-5.
  21. ^ "Maronites". Minority Rights Group International. 2005. Archived from the original on 16 January 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  22. ^ a b c "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  23. ^ a b c "2012 Report on International Religious Freedom – Lebanon". United States Department of State. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  24. ^ "There are 3,198,600 Maronites in the World". 3 January 1994. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Lebanon". United States Department of State. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  26. ^ Yahya, Houssam (2015). La protection sanitaire et sociale au Liban (1860-1963) (PDF) (Thesis). Université Nice Sophia Antipolis.
  27. ^ "Lebanon: people and society"
  28. ^ Gharbieh, Hussein M. (1996). Political awareness of the Shi'ites in Lebanon: the role of Sayyid 'Abd al-Husain Sharaf al-Din and Sayyid Musa al-Sadr (PDF) (Doctoral). Durham: Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, University of Durham.
  29. ^ Fahrenthold, Stacy (2019). Between the Ottomans and the Entente: The First World War in the Syrian and Lebanese Diaspora, 1908-1925. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190872151.
  30. ^ Fawwaz Traboulsi, Social Classes and Political Power in Lebanon (Beirut: Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 2014)
  31. ^ Abdel-Nour, Antoine (1982). Introduction à l'histoire urbaine de la Syrie ottomane (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle). Université Libanaise.
  32. ^ "Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 15 November 2022.
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Lebanese Maronite Christians
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