Some of the Fathers of the Church lived or were from Syria, including Saint John Damascene. Archeology reveals that Marian devotion in that region goes back to the patristic era. It is now a Muslim majority country, with only a minority of 500,000 Christians of Greek-Orthodox, Maronite or Roman Catholic rites.

Syria is home to the important Christian shrine of Saydnaya, 25 km from Damascus. Its church and monastery, containing valuable manuscripts and icons, date from 547. Saydanya receives a very large number of visitors each year, and ranks only second after Jerusalem in the Middle East as a sacred destination. Miracles are reported.

We must also mention Soufanieh, where the visionary and stigmatist Myrna receives miraculous olive oil and shares a message from heaven for the unity of Christians and inter-religious dialogue. The investigation is ongoing.

What archeology reveals (1)

Syria has a great number of ancient Christian buildings, inscriptions and mosaics evoking the Virgin Mary.

  • Hauran (a region north of Damascus): its ruins and inscriptions date from 324.
  • Chaqqa: inscriptions on a tower invoke the Virgin Mary.
  • Erza: on a wall of the Church Saint Elias, we read: "Mary, Martha, Anastasia."
  • At Kefr Giushed, in the ruins of the chapel, are the words "Mary, help us!"
  • In Mektebeh, on a corner stone, it is written: "Mary, help Diomedes."
  • In Hass, in the ruins of a church, an inscription dating from the year 378 says: "One God, Christ, born of Mary." In Homs, a 5th-century vase depicts Christ, some saints and the Virgin Mary surrounded by two archangels.
  • In an underground place near Khâlid al Hakîm, is the inscription "Mary, protect the priests Leonzio and Sergio."
  • El Hazimé (near Hama): a shrine dedicated to the Virgin goes back to the year 390-391 as indicated by an inscription on the lintel.
  • Tortosa: Tradition says that Our Lady of Tortosa was built over a chapel erected by Saint Peter that housed an icon by Saint Luke. Many healings and miracles have been reported. This shrine was later ransacked and abandoned, then used as a stable. In 1914, the Turks transformed it into barracks. Today it is a national museum. The miraculous icon was brought back to Cyprus by the crusaders to the Abbey of Our Lady of Tortosa.
  • In Damascus: The church of Mary dates back to Byzantine times, and was destroyed in the year 1260.

(1) Attilio Galli, Madre della Chiesa dei Cinque Continenti, Ed Segno, Udine, 1997, p. 533-544


The Fathers of the Church and Syria

One cannot speak of Damascus without mentioning Saint Sophronius and Saint Andrew of Crete who were born there, as well as Saint John Damascene who was bishop there. All of them wrote beautiful texts about Mary.

Saint Sophronius, a native of Damascus (ca. 560) and patriarch of Jerusalem from 634-638, spoke of Mary in admirable terms.

Saint Andrew of Crete was also born in Damascus (ca. 650).

Saint John Damascene, a native of Damascus (ca. 675), was an eloquent defender of icons, because of the mystery of the Incarnation. He was also a great theologian of the Assumption of Mary. Reading his meditations are akin to visiting a cathedral!

Saint Ephrem the Syrian was born in the city of Nisibis (now Nusaybin in Turkey), and he then settled in Edessa (also in Turkey, near the present Syrian border). He wrote magnificent hymns to the Virgin Mary. We mention him in the "Turkey" section of "Mary Fills the World" and in the "Great Marian Witnesses" section.