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 Deir Doukhoul al Sayydeh , al Natour - Enfeh, el Koura
(North Lebanon)


The Old Church Interior
Iconostatis of the Old Church


The Holy Service

The Choir of the Eparchy of Tripoli chanys in the Monastery

The exterior of the Holy Monastery
The Convent of the Presentation of Our Lady (Lady of Natour)

The convent is visible from the Beirut-Tripoli highway. It lies by the sea, a few kilometers north of Enfeh, called Nefin by the Crusaders, fifteen kilometers south of Tripoli and seventy kilometers north of Beirut. Four kilometers to the east, the Orthodox Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand, of Cistercian construction, dominates the hill overlooking Dayr al-Natour. A large plain, now covered with brush, surrounds the convent, but still visible are the famous salt-pans that extend along the coast of Enfeh. Thirty years ago, the shore was dotted with windmills that carried seawater to the salt-pans; these have been replaced by electric pumps, but the area is still extraordinarily beautiful, especially at sunset, with the high shadow of the convent stretching over the golden background of the sea and the coppery reflections of the salt-pans.

The convent's ancient origin is attached to a legend. A rich man of the region committed adultery; filled with remorse, he attached a padlocked iron chain to his ankle and threw the key into the sea-shore and survived on the fish brought to him by local fishermen, who called him the guardian of the cavern. One day, a fisherman brought him a fish, in whose entrails the hermit found the key of the padlock. He knew then that God had delivered him from his suffering, and he built a convent above the cavern. He dedicated it to The Mother of God, but it also took the name of the Guardian.

The daily life of the convent is regulated by the flow of visitors who come to fulfill vows and make prayers. Sister Catherine al-Jamal is the principal resident of Dayr al-Natour, and she has done everything within her power to restore it.

According to the Crusader document, the Monastery of the Presentation of Our Lady Natour was built by Cistercians. Indeed, the Church interior resembles that of the Cistercian Church of Balamand, built in 1157. Otherwise, the history of Dayr al-Natour is hidden in obscurity, although it is said that the local Orthodox community took it over after the departure of the Crusaders. Its name is almost unmentioned by historical sources during the Mamluk and most of the Ottoman period, although it is reported that French corsairs attacked the Monastery at the beginning of the eighteenth century and killed a monk. In 1838, the Ottoman authorities gave permission to the Monastery to be rebuilt. In the second half of the nineteenth century, it contained several monks and a superior, and it possessed fifteen dunums of land. During the First World War, it was bombarded by a Russian ship. A few years later, the Monastery lost its last Superior, Basilios Debs, who  became Archbishop of Akkar. After his departure, monastic life ended at Dayr al-Natour.

During the twentieth century, the deserted monastery became a refuge for shepherds from the neighboring regions. In 1973, Sister Catherine al-Jamal moved to Dayr al-Natour and began to restore it from its ruin. In 1976, the war in this region flared up and she was forced to leave, but she returned three years later. During this period, the place had been pillaged by militias, but Sister Catherine gradually completed her work of restoration. The Convent of Dayr al-Natour is now in very good condition, with the exterior walls cleaned and the interior covered with beautiful contemporary paintings.

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