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Sydnaya, Syria

A village spread out over a hilltop about 30 km from Damascus and is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, notable as a place of religious pilgrimage than for any outstanding remains. It has a famous monastery found in 547 AD, probably built during the reign of Emperor Justinian.

This monastery which was a famous place of pilgrimage during Crusader times, was ordered by the Emperor himself, once out hunting, Justinian allegedly witnessed a vision; a lady who in turn commanded him to erect the church in its location today.

The Virgin Mary portrait by St. LukeIcon of the Blessed Lady

The Emperor built the monastery and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin, hence the name of the village itself; Seyda Naya which means "Our Lady" in Syriac.

Beside the monastery; which houses a precious icon of St. Luke the Evangelist (The portrait of the Virgin Mary) and other icons said to date from the 5th and 7th centuries, there is the famous church of Sophia and Sherobim convent which was built in the 3rd century and is 2000m above sea level.

The miracles associated with the image of the Virgin brought the chapel wide fame, particularly during and after the middle ages. It became the most famous center for pilgrimage in the east after Jerusalem.

Icon of the Blessed Lady

The Crusaders were fascinated by the legends of "Notre Dame de Sardeneye", associated with a painting of the Virgin.

The chapel (dedicated to St. Peter - Mar Boutros) is a converted ancient tomb. There are other minor sites of historical interest in the area, some associated with the monastic tradition of the early Church.

The convent is in the care of the Greek Orthodox Church. The main day of pilgrimage is 8 September (birthday of the Virgin).
 

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