THE VILLAGE OF MAALOULA
The village of Maaloula is located 56 kilometres to the northeast of Damascus and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 metres. The village has a population of just 2000, which belies its historical and spiritual significance. Maaloula, from the Aramaic word ma'la meaning "entrance", is the only place where the western dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is still spoken. It is home to two important monasteries, Mar Sarkis and Mar Tqla.
The Mar Sarkis monastery was built in the 4th century on the remains of a pagan temple and bears a plain and simple appearance. It was named after St. Sarkis (St. Sergius), a Roman soldier, executed for his Christian beliefs. The Mar Taqla monastery holds the remains of St. Taqla (Thecla); daughter of one of Seleucid princes, and pupil of St. Paul. According to legend, in the 1st century AD, soldiers pursued St.Taqla and her father because of her Christian faith. She came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split asunder to reveal a gorge like that at Petra, through which she escaped. The town is named after this entrance to the mountain. Naturally there are many variations of this story among the residents of Maaloula.
In and around the village are the remains of monasteries, convents, churches, shrines and sanctuaries. Many pilgrims, both Christian and Muslim, come to Maaloula to receive blessings and make offerings.
A visit to Maaloula is a must for any Damascene, standing as it does
Since its establishment in the 1960s, part of the curriculum of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus Univeristy has been mandatory field visits to draw and paint in Maaloula, a practice that continues until this day. Since Fateh Moudaress and Louay Kayyali both taught at the university for many years, it would explain why they both chose this mystical place many times as a subject for their paintings, over a long time period and in different media and different styles.
Property from the Collection of Edwin and Traudis Kennedy