Faqra

Faqra is an archaeological site in Mount Lebanon with Roman and Byzantine ruins. Nestled in the hollow of a rocky landscape at an altitude of 1500 m, Faqra is one of the most important sites in the Nahr El-Kalb valley region. The ruins include a sanctuary of Zeus Beelgalasos, a temple dedicated to Atargatis and later converted into a basilica, two altars, and a tower restored during the reign of the emperor Claudius.

Coordinates: 33°59’54.2″N 35°48’27.6″E

The site of Faqra aroused the interest of western explorers from the 18th century, and a German Delegation undertook first archaeological and historical surveys at the beginning of the 20th century. These resulted in a scientific publication in 1938, including numerous architectural surveys and outstanding photographs. Restoration work started in 1944 under the auspice of the Departement of Antiquities and continued until 1975. No further archaeological excavations have been carried out since.

The first site is dominated by a huge 15 m. sq. tower, which originally had a third storey and a pyramid-shaped roof. A Greek inscription on the north-east corner of the tower and another above the door indicate that the building was restored by the Roman Emperor Claudius in AD 43. Interpretations differ as to the function of the tower. It was considered as a tomb, as a monumental altar, or sometimes as a lookout post. Two other buildings can be seen 50 metres north-west of the tower. The largest is an altar used for making sacrifices, the function of which is evidenced by the discovery of remains of bones and ashes in its ruins. The other is a small collonaded altar.

The second site consists of a monumental temple‐sanctuary and a small temple dedicated to “the Syrian goddess,” a local form of the goddess Atargatis, both built in the 1st century AD. The sanctuary was partially carved into the bedrock, including the outer courtyard walls and their foundations. It consists of an enclosure 35x35m surrounding a sacred area in the middle of which stands an altar. A large temple facing east has a façade with six restored Corinthian columns, a pediment and entablature. The courtyard surrounding the temple is protected by a covered portico built in the Tuscan order around AD 240. The sanctuary is dedicated to a deity named Zeus Beelgalassos, the local Baal of Faqra.

The small temple is located to the south of the monumental sanctuary. The building consists of a pagan temple with a Christian basilica attached to it. The commonly accepted attribution of the temple to the goddess Atargatis is due to the presence of a dedication dated to the 1st century AD. In Late Antiquity, Christians built a church next to the temple and reused the temple as a baptistery.

PORTFOLIO

The Tower of Claudius. The monument is essentially a large platform (a “high place of worship”), where large animals could be sacrificed.
The inscription above the door of the Tower of Claudius.
To the emperor Tiberius Claudius Caesar
Augustus and the ancestral god Beelgalasos,
under Gaius Ca(ssius) …
Inscription near the door of the Tower of Claudius.
“The year 355, under Tholom Rabbomos (or son of Rabbomos) commissioner, was built [this monument] at the expense of the God Most Great”
The largest altar. One wall is decorated with a relief of a bull’s head.
The small collonaded altar.

General view of the rock sanctuary.
The entrance to the Temple of Zeus Beelgalasos.
The outer courtyard walls of the Temple of Zeus Beelgalasos.
View of the temple from the portico surrounding the courtyard.
The façade of the Temple of Zeus Beelgalasos with six Corinthian columns.
The courtyard and the inner altar.
The Byzantine Church.
The Temple of Atargatis.

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