Saint Maron's Relic

"Ornament of the Divine Choir of Saints"
By Guita G. Hourani
As monasticism thrived in Antioch and Mesopotamia, a hermit named Maron emerged with ascetic life. The earliest written records about Saint Maron (1) are found in Historia Religiosa of Theodoret (2), and in a letter of John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (344-407).
St. Maron’s fame circulated and attracted people from every region. He cured not only infirmities of the body, but applied suitable treatment to souls as well. He planted for God the garden that now flourishes in the region of Cyrrhus (3). A product of his planting was the great James, to whom one could reasonably apply the prophetic utterance, 'the righteous man will flower as the palm tree, and be multiplied like the cedar of Lebanon'. (4)
Treating souls and bodies alike through divine cultivation, St. Maron underwent a short illness and passed away. A bitter war over his body arose as an adjacent village came out in mass and seized this desired treasure. (5)
Saint John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople dedicated his 36th epistle to Saint Maron while exiled in Cucussus (6), Armenia, around the year 405:
"To Maron: We address ourselves to your honour and we hold you constantly in our mind and carry you in our souls. Write to us often so we might be cheered by learning constantly about your health and receive much consolation as we sit in solitude. And above all please pray for us". (7)
A church was built in his name and a sarcophagus containing the Saint's body was housed in it. It is believed that later the Saint's skull was transported to Apamea where they built the famous Saint Maron Monastery. According to historian Al-Mas'oudi:
"There was dedicated to him a great convent located in Hamah. Around it were 300 cells, inhabited by monks. That convent was sacked by the many raids of the Arabs and by the cruelty of the Sultan.”(8)
Patriarch Istephan Duwayhi in his book T'arikh al-Azmina tells us that when the first Maronite Patriarch Youhanna (John) Maron settled in Lebanon during the 8th century:
"He built a monastery after Saint Maron's name and put Saint Maron's skull in it to heal the faithful. That’s why the monastery is called "Rish Mro" Syriac for Maron's head (9).
Luigi Jacobilli in his book Vite De' Santi e Beati Dell'Umbria (10) asserts that in the year 1130 A.D., Saint Maron's skull was again moved to Foligno, Italy.
“In regard to the relics of St. Maron, Jacobilli affirms that the Saint's skull is now preserved in Foligno after being transferred three times. The authenticity of the first transfer [from Syria to Sassovivo] is recorded in the Chronicon Monasterii S. Crucis Saxivivi, the other two transfers are noted in the archive of the Church in Volperino and the Town Hall of Foligno.” (11)
Saint Maron left a legacy behind him that flourishes today in a people named after him- the Maronites, found all over the world. Saint Maron's feast day is celebrated on February 9th which is an official national day in Lebanon.
(1) Other spellings: Maro, Maroun, Marun, Maroon.
(2) The text of Theodoret is published in "Patrologiae Graecae", vol. LXXXII, 1864, column 1417 and 1419 and that of John Chrysostom in "Patrologiae Graecae", vol. 51.3, 1862, the 36 epistle, column 630.
(3) Cyrrhus, Cyr, Quros, or Hagioupolis, is now Huru Pegamber in Eastern Turkey. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. I, (Oxford, 1991), pp. 574-575.
(4) Psalm 92:12.
(5) Theodore of Cyrrhus. A History of the Monks of Syria. (Michigan, 1985), p. 119, note # 3.
(6) Cucusa, or Cucusus is now in Turkey.
(7) AbouZayd, S. Ihidayutha: A study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient: From Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 A.D., (Oxford, 1993), p. 363.
(8) Al-Mas'oudi, Le livre de l'avertissement et de la revision,1897, p. 211.
(9) Khoury-Harb, A.The Maronites, p. 40.
(10) Jacobilli, Luigi. Vite de' Santi e Beati dell'Umbria, l. II, (Foligno, 1656), pp. 134-138.
(11) Ibid., column 1195 and 1196.

Abridged and reprinted with permission from back issues of the Journal of Maronite Studies, January 1997 Vol 1, No. 1. Guita G. Hourani is the chairwoman of MARI (The Maronite Research Institute).