Rachkida: the Church of Saint George (Mar Girgis)
Type of site:
Medieval church with wall paintings
Northern Lebanon, about 8 km east of Batroun
Historical region: County of Tripoli
From the Roman period (1st–3rd century AD) to the Ottoman period (15th–20th century AD)
History of research:
Dates of PCMA mission’s work:
Type of research:
Salvage excavations, study mission
Tomasz Waliszewski, Lévon Nordiguian (2012, 2016)
Piotr Makowski (2016)
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Saint Joseph University in Beirut
– Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA)
Description of the site and research:
Rachkida is a small site located in northern Lebanon about 8 km east of Batroun. The Church of Saint George (Mar Girgis) was probably built by the local Christian community at the beginning of the Crusader period. It is one of the best-preserved buildings of this kind in the area of the former County of Tripoli. However, due to its relatively well-preserved iconographic program, it has until now been mainly the object of interest of art historians. In June 2012, as a result of the cooperation of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw and the Saint Joseph University in Beirut, excavations were carried out in the interior of the church.
The oldest, incidental traces of settlement recorded during the excavations are dated to the early Roman period. The results of the research confirmed that the church had been erected on top of an earlier building from the Byzantine period. Unfortunately, the limited area of the test trenches did not allow its identification. The final architectural shape of the medieval church was the result of several reconstructions. However, it seems likely that its three-aisled layout corresponded to the plan of the earlier Byzantine basilica.
It is difficult to determine when the church ceased to be a liturgical place, but it certainly did not happen right after the fall of the County of Tripoli. At least from the middle of the 19th century, the interior of the church was used sometimes by the local communities. The relatively well-preserved structure undoubtedly offered provisional shelter. Moreover, long after the church had lost its liturgical function, its wall paintings continued to be objects of individual commemoration. This is evidenced by numerous soot marks, especially near the images of saints. The ruins must have been visited since the middle of the 19th century by Maronites, whose presence in Rachkida is attested by oral tradition.