Written by Badawi Habak
Translated by Rasha Zantout
NNA - The road that leads to the church and grotto of Saint Shallita takes you through the village of Qanat to the farm of Bani Saab, then the valley of Saint Shallita in Bcharre district. There you find it, a church inside a rocky cavity on the left bank of the valley. Part of the church is engraved in stone, the other built from amateurishly carved stone, put together by a mix of limestone and sand.
The church is comprised of one grand hall. The design of it confirms that it was built over two different phases.
The entrance to the grotto is at the right bank of the valley facing the church. In the 1950s, the Ministry of Resources renovated some of its pathways to drag water inside it, making it easier to reach the course of underground water.
The grotto is made of two levels: The upper level, which is relatively dry; the lower level, where you can find the stream of underground water and a spring, which is a hall covered with water. Pottery remnants from the Bronze Age, Stone Age flint tools, human and animal bones with no identifiable age were found at the bottom of the grotto and well.
A winding corridor leads to a wide hall at a height of four meters. A well lies at the southern side and leads to the lower part of the grotto where an underground river runs and creates little waterfalls.
Historically speaking, some of the flint tools found in the grotto point to inhabitants from the Middle Palaeolithic age, also known as the Mousterian culture.
Signs of inhabitants were also found from the middle to the late Bronze age (1600 B.C.E.).
During works on the grotto by a certain concerned organization, other caving enthusiasts from Belgium's Spekul decided to join in and explore the cave together. The cavers discovered a depression that reveals a wondrous sight of a red rocky waterfall with still water at the bottom that resembles that of Jeita Grotto.
The church and grotto are cared after by the town's people, its mayor and the above mentioned organization. Even world explorers are interested in the locale's beauty, history and religious significance.