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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The church of St. John the Baptist

The old church

The old church of St. John the Baptist in the village of Qattina was a small church to which one descended by stairs for it was lower than ground level. Today, however, the church does not exist. It has been replaced, and in the same location, by a large church bearing the same name.

The sources of oral tradition seem controversial about the subject. Some sources state that the old church had been shattered, while others mention that the new one has been built upon the old which remained untouched.

The oldest church documents date the old church back to the 15th century.

The church used to be the church of a monastery that consisted of a small number of monks who lived in nearby cells. One of these monks was the Metropolitan of Hims and its suburbs, Ioakim Ben Maatouk, who became a bishop in 1593.

The most important remnants of the old church are sacred icons, which were transferred and placed in the new church the time its construction was accomplished. This, along with sacred vessels on which the following sentence was carved: «A donation to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist Qattina ». Some old books were also transferred.

The large church

The large three-aisled church is tholoskepastos. It was built with black basalt, in 1909 in the times of Metropolitan Athanasios Atallah, bishop of Hims and suburbs, and priest Solomon Lula. Since 1909, the stone remained uncovered, until 1926 when it was whitewashed in the days of Metropolitan Epiphanios Zaed.

Until 1927 the congregation used to pray standing on foot. By then, wooden pews were placed by the walls of the Church and in front of the four central pillars for the elderly. At an unknown date, extra chairs were added so that all believers can sit whenever permitted.

In the days of the Metropolitan Alexios Abdoulkarim, in 1996, and priest Antonios Wehbe, Church’s walls were decalcified, and the maintenance work started. However, he died before it was accomplished. Then his eminence Metropolitan George Abu Zakham took over the task which on 24/10/1999 and continues until today to oversee the decoration of the church in accordance with church standards.

Text and research theol. Moutasem F. Takla 25/12/2008

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