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by WLCU Editor | Oct 28, 2015

Located in North Lebanon, the Qadisha Valley is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It houses more than 10 monasteries and numerous grottos that go back to the early days of Christianity. The UNESCO Evaluator Ms Anion described the Valley as a “Small Miracle of Perfection”.

Housed in the Qadisha valley, Saydet Ed Derr Grotto holds ancient valuable mural paintings, that dates back to the 12th century, that urgently need to be protected from water infiltration and restored.

It is a church-cave filled with ancient mural paintings of saints and biblical scenes.  The grotto also houses the only baptism painting of the country – one of the most rare and old monuments of such epoch and style in Lebanon. The murals and the unique location of Saydet Ed Derr are really extraordinary and make it a pleasurable visit in the Valley.

Lately, the murals have started to fade out due to both natural phenomena and human interference. The damage is mainly due to fractures, graffiti, waxy and black smoke deposits, growth of colonies of autotrophic photosynthetic microorganisms and burned areas. Unless restored, these murals will disappear soon due to the water infiltration mainly through the rocks of the grotto. To conserve these immensely valuable murals, this issue should be treated quickly as a national movement that would jeopardize Wadi Qadisha – Lebanon ranking in the UNESCO heritage.  We need to create a culvert around the grotto in order to drain the water away from the site.

As challenging as it seems, solutions to the problem exist, through the extraction of some data on the cave and the development of some measures to maintain this wealthy heritage.

We need your help to raise funds to start the phase 1 of the project that consists of:

1-    Cleaning the upper part of the cave in order to seal all areas that permit water infiltration in the grotto and thus deteriorating the murals.

2-     Fixing the entrance gate of the church to stop the bats from entering. By controlling the amount of sunlight that enters the cave, this would also stop microorganisms from growing.

Phase 2 will allow us to collect some environmental data like temperature and humidity along with carrying out chemical and biological investigations to check for the presence of salts and microorganisms on the surface of the grotto. In addition, it is crucial that visitors be always be accompanied by a guide in order to prevent damage due to vandalism and to control the time spent inside the cave without altering its microclimate.

The Grotto rehabilitation and murals reconstitution will be carried out by Italian specialists in collaboration with USEK University’s Department of Sacred Arts.

The 110’000USD (98’900 Euro) for the 2 phases will contribute to keeping the Qadisha Valley a Unesco World Heritage site. Help us preserve it.

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