Ministry of Culture To Buy Land & Save Lebanon’s Oldest Church in Downtown Beirut?

Source: The Beirut Report

Source: The Beirut Report

The site in Downtown Beirut, which is called “The Landmark” and at which a future hotel and mall were to be built, turned out to be an archeological jewel for Lebanon, unveiling three very important entities:

  1. A Roman gate,
  2. The old Roman road,
  3. Lebanon’s possibly oldest church (source).

I wrote on the issue yesterday. The matter has since made the rounds online. And it seems we’ve made a ripple. Lebanon’s ministry of culture is now considering to purchase the land where “The Landmark” is to be built because of its historical importance according to the following source (link – Arabic).

While the news is definitely welcome, I have to wonder – is it really Lebanese-like to have a ministry with a proven track record – the Roman hippodrome, Phoenician port and Amin Maalouf’s house are all destroyed – somehow respond this fast to demands and act on them? Isn’t it all too fast and too efficient to actually be plausible taking into consideration Lebanese standards?

Perhaps this whole “land purchase” deal is a decoy in order to calm down everyone whilst the real plans go underway. It’s not a conspiracy theory as much as it is the reality of a place like Lebanon where such things happen almost all the time. The question to be asked though: what truly got the ministry of culture to act this time while they didn’t regarding other sites despite all of them getting the same attention and vocal opposition to the demolitions?

It’s quite simple, in my opinion. “The Landmark” land has had a Church discovered in it. Prior to the discovery of the Church, and even though the Roman gate and road were both potentially discovered, the ministry of culture had no problem leaving the project underway and everything demolished in the process (source). But when a church comes into play, can a “Christian” minister truly leave the place be especially with so many “rights” at stake lately? It’s not about “culture” at all.

Ancient churches obviously trump everything else in archeological importance. And quite honestly, it was probably really smart to add a “Church” twist to the affair in order to get people – including the minister – to act. Can you imagine the even bigger outrage if the Church wasn’t saved?

Moreover, isn’t it despicable for us to now start hoping religion factors into the undiscovered aspects of our history in order to have a decent chance at having them saved, documented and potentially turned into a viable economical outlet that doesn’t require their demolition?

Based on a comment on my post regarding the matter (link), a law in Lebanon actually exists in order to protect ancient ruins from the claws of real estate and developmental projects with no other aim but blind money. The law in question was put into action prior to the civil war and hasn’t probably been put on hold akin to our new driving law.

Shouldn’t a country as archeologically rich as Lebanon, and a city with layers upon layers of history such as Beirut, have devised a method by now in order to accommodate the need for contemporary development with the need to also preserve history? How did cities like Rome and Athens manage to move into the 21st century? I guess it all comes down to the basic flaw in everything Lebanese: we never, ever, have a plan and a vision for a future.

How will the moguls behind “The Landmark” take the news that their entire investment will now go to waste? Is this even charted territory for us whereby the billionaire developers don’t get their way – in theory at least?

I hope for its sake that the next site to be unearthed in Beirut has some Umayyad mosque in it.


5 thoughts on “Ministry of Culture To Buy Land & Save Lebanon’s Oldest Church in Downtown Beirut?

  1. Pingback: Lebanon’s Oldest Church Discovered & Will Be Destroyed Soon? | A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  2. Protesting in Beirut will not change a thing. The Lebanese politicians worship money and disregard Lebanons heritage. I’ve seen pics of Beirut in the early to mid 1900’s and it was unbelievably European. Red terracotta roof tiles made it look like Nice in France or even Dbrovnik in Croatia. Instead for years(even before the civil war), the Lebanese had sought profit rather than heritage,and as a result we have seen a total destruction on a massive scale of all the heritage buildings and the construction of ugly concrete highrises in their place.

    What you have to do is try to complain to the World Heritage Organisation or the Italian authorities to exurt their influience as Roman heritage is considered valuable worldwide.

    In western countries like Australia(which is only 200 years old), they deem buildings that are more than 50 years old to be heritage listed.

    Tourists DO NOT WANT to see high rise concrete structures. They want to come to lebanon to see the heritage, experience the way Lebanese live and experience the traditional food. However instead it seems Lebanon and the Lebanese want to be like Hollywood. The Lebanese expats who live abroad are more Lebanese than the ones in Lebanon.

    Tourists don’t want Sushi or Thai when they are in Lebanon. They want to try the traditional food which had made Lebanon famous. They want to see the heritage buildings that are unique to lebanon. They want to see Lebanons archaelogical history whether Roman, Arab, Phonecian etc.
    I don’t think people understand the gravity of the destruction of the Phonecian Port. These ruins once housed boats that traded with the rest of the world. It brought the alphebet to the world.

    Also the Planning Minister in Lebanon should be shot. There is absolutely no height restrictions so we see high rise skyline in Ashrefieh, then one in Ain Mreisseh, then at the Rouche….. and in different spots in between. BEIRUT IS A MESS!!!!!!!!

    Amman and Damascas even look better than Beirut. They have height restrictions and have kept their heritage.

    Imagine if the whole of Beirut looked like DOWNTOWN and with the highrises limited to one part of beirut…. We can only dream.

    THERE NEEDS TO BE A WORLDWIDE CAMPAIGN – Partcularly in France in Italy to save Beiruts Heritage. Because it seems the Lebanese politicians only listen to other countries and their wallets, rather than the Lebanese people.





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