Mar Elias Btina

Mar Elias Btina

  • Project name:

    Medieval wall paintings in the Church of Mar Elias Btina in Lebanon – conservation and archaeology.

  • Type of site:



    Lebanon, Beirut


    13th century

Most interesting finds:

– wall paintings in the church presbytery, preliminarily dated to the 13th century; the depictions of the Prophet Elijah are the first known from Lebanon to date

History of research:

Dates of PCMA mission’s work:

2010–2011, 2013

Type of research:

Conservation and restoration of wall paintings


Krzysztof Chmielewski (Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw)
Tomasz Waliszewski (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw)

Co-operating institutions:

– Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon

Additional information:

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, grant for the years 2011–2012: “Forgotten Heritage II. Study and Documentation of the Church of Mar Elias Btina in Beirut (Lebanon) and its Wall Paintings”; grant holder Tomasz Waliszewski.

Description of the site and research:

The church dedicated to the Prophet Elijah is today part of a school that occupies the buildings of a monastery built in the second half of the 19th century. The small presbytery of the present-day church is, however, much older and hewn directly in the rock. On one of the walls, where the outer paint layer had fallen off, an outline of a composition hidden underneath could be seen. In 2010, conservators uncovered medieval paintings – badly damaged but valuable from the historical and iconographical point of view. Two scenes on the north wall depict the Prophet Elijah sitting in front of a cave and being taken up to Heaven in a chariot. This identification is confirmed by a well-preserved Greek inscription. On a damaged painting on the opposite wall, fragments of standing figures with haloes can be discerned.

The discovered paintings, dated preliminarily to the 13th century, are the first depictions of the Prophet Elijah confirmed by an inscription in Lebanon. They also attest to the long tradition of his cult in this place, the memory of which has been preserved in the dedication of the church.

Project bibliography:

Waliszewski T., Chmielewski K. (2012), From Byzantine Mosaics to Medieval Paintings. Fifteen years of Polish-Lebanese cooperation in archaeology and conservation 1996–2011, Ambasada RP w Bejrucie, Beirut 2012, 54 ss. (cztery wersje językowe: angielska, francuska, arabska oraz polska)

Chmielewski K., Waliszewski T. (2011), Church of Mar Elias Btina in Beirut (Lebanon) and its wall paintings. Conservation project report, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 23, 403–414


Posted in: