Our Lady of Saidnaya Monastery

Our Lady of Saydnaya Patriarchal Monastery (Arabic: دير سيدة صيدنايا البطريركي) is a monastery of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch located in Saidnaya, Syria. It is one of the most ancient monasteries in the world and in the region of the Middle East and North Africa, traditionally held to have been founded by Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 547 AD. It is run by a religious order of nuns. It is an important pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims, who visit an icon of Saint Mary which is attributed to Saint Luke.

Our Lady of Saidnaya Monastery
دير سيدة صيدنايا
Monastery information
Full nameOur Lady of Saydnaya Patriarchal Monastery (Arabic: دير سيدة صيدنايا البطريركي)
OrderGreek Orthodox Church of Antioch
Established547 AD
Dedicated toMary, mother of Jesus
Founder(s)Justinian I
LocationSaidnaya, al-Tall District, Rif Dimashq Governorate, Syria
Coordinates33°41′58.5″N 36°22′30.1″E


The main chapel has numerous icons and a wooden iconostasis in front of the altar. The pilgrimage shrine, separate from the main chapel, contains the aforementioned icon of Mary, called Shaghoura ("the Illustrious"). The icon is kept hidden behind an ornate, silver-doored niche, while on either side of this shrine are a number of later icons. Numerous beaten silver crosses and other religious symbols, left as ex votos by pilgrims, are displayed on the walls.


Mosaic depiction of Mary ordering Justinian not to kill her but to build a church on the rock in the background, after having first appeared to him as a gazelle. The scroll she holds reads: لا لن تقتلني يا جوستنيان ولكنك ستشيد لي كنيسة هنا على هذا الصخر ("No, thou shalt not kill me, Justinian, but thou shalt build a church for me, here, on this rock").

Tradition holds that the monastery was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 547 AD, following two visions of Mary. One indicated the intended site of the church, while the other outlined its design.[1] Justinian dedicated the finished project on the Feast of Mary's Nativity, and annually thereafter on September 8, both Christian and later Muslim pilgrims arrive at the monastery to honour Our Lady of Saidnaya.[1][2]

The monastery was damaged during the Syrian civil war.[3]

See also


  1. Garrett, Paul D.; Purpura, Kathleen A. (2007). Frank Maria: A Search for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4343-0000-3.
  2. Mannheim, Ivan (2001). Syria & Lebanon Handbook: The Travel Guide. Footprint Travel Guides. ISBN 978-1-900949-90-3.
  3. Damage to the soul: Syria's cultural heritage in conflict (Archived August 12, 2012, at WebCite)