The Carmelite Monastery also known as Stella Maris is located on the western slopes of Mount Carmel in the city of Haifa Israel.
The Carmelite Order was born in the 13th century and spread all over Europe. They were forced to leave the area at the end of the 13th century and came back four centuries later when the Cave of Elijah was found and set the Monastery nearby.
The facade of the Church and the Pyramid Monument
The church and the monastery as seen today were built in 1836 with the monetary contribution of the French Monarchy. That is why the area is called today French Carmel.
There is a small pyramid memorial topped with an iron cross can be found there, commemorating the French that were slaughtered by the Turks in 1799. It bears an inscription taken from King David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan, saying: "How are the mighty fallen in battles"
Spectacular dome of Stella Maris Church in Haifa
Stella Maris Church.
The church of “Our lady of Mount Carmel” as it is also called, is beautifully decorated with ceiling paintings depicting the story of the Prophet Elijah which is the patron of the Carmelite Order. The paintings show Elijah, King David and the Holy Family and Four Evangelists.
The paintings on the walls are the work of Brother Luigi Poggi showing scenes of the Old Testament, being the most important the one of Elijah the Prophet being swept up in a chariot of fire.
Behind the altar is a cave that may be visited. This is “Elijah’s Cave” where according to the Old Testament the prophet lived.
The altar features many little candles each representing a Carmelite community all around the world. You may also see a charming Nativity Scene next to the entrance and of course, a souvenir shop, where you’ll find a nice present to bring back home to your loved ones.
The interior and the altar of Stella Maris Church in Haifa Israel
Around the middle of the 13th century, at the time of St Louis’ first Crusade to the Holy Land, he took back to France a few Carmelites with him. This is when the order started to grow enormously in Europe. At the end of the century they were forced to leave by the Mamluks.
At the beginning of the 17th century they returned to the Holy Land led by father Prosper and this is when they took the name of Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They eventually moved to the current location above Elijah’s Cave and built the present church on top of the ruins of the Medieval Greek Church known as the “Abbey of St Margaret”.
Today the Monastery serves as the Spiritual Center of the order of the Carmelites worldwide.
Many paintings depicting scenes of the Old Testament can be seen on the church, like, Elijah rising to the heavens, David and his harp, the Prophet Isaiah, besides many biblical verses written in Latin.
Monument to the Virgin Mary at the Stella Maris Church
Visiting the Church and the Carmelite Monastery
You will probably be taken here by your Professional Israel Tour Guide. Once at the location, a monk will gladly answer all your questions and show you around.
images credits for carmelite monastery:
interior by iliakriv
dome by iliakriv
virgin mary statue by avishai teichler
all courtesy of wikimedia commons
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