Faqra is an archaeological site in Mount Lebanon with Roman and Byzantine ruins. 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. 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.
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 the 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 Department 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 northeast 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 a tomb, a monumental altar, or sometimes a lookout post. Two other buildings can be seen 50 metres northwest 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, built in the 1st century AD. The sanctuary is devoted to a deity named Zeus Beelgalassos, the local Baal of Faqra. 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 an entablature. The courtyard surrounding the temple is protected by a covered portico built in the Tuscan order around AD 240.
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.