Saint Mary’s Orthodox Church of Dormition is the parish church of the Greek Orthodox community in Ras Beirut, an area of the city of Beirut. The church dates back to 1860.  Presently,  the parish counts 400 families.   Its location near the American University of Beirut, the alma mater of many parishioners, gives the church its cosmopolitan character, as well as the fact that  many parishioners come from different areas of Lebanon.  Furthermore, its survival is ensured by the many who travelled abroad or relocated to other areas within Lebanon who always return  to what they consider their mother church.

Establishing and Building the Church 1860-1929

Prior to  1860, the congregation used to pray at  Saint George Cathedral situated downtown in Parliament Square, as there was no Orthodox Church in Ras…

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Early Priests

Since the church was established in the late 19th century, official records are not available to document the achievements of the individual priests and reflect on…

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Expansion and Acquisitions 1930-1978

Expansion 1930 In 1930, after receiving approval for assistance from the parish, the Trustees decided to enlarge the church, as the Church’ s area was…

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Father Nicolas Khalaf

Father Khalaf was in charge of the congregation from 1924 to 1953. He lived with his family on the “Waqf” where he used the big…

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Father John Sakkab

Father John Sakkab came to Saint Mary’s in 1954. Born on March 1, 1927, Father Sakkab comes from a Palestinian origin. He was intelligent, dynamic,…

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Father Germanos El Hage

Father Germanos was ordained in 1970 and was  appointed the same year to serve in St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Dormition to assist Father John…

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Further Expansion and Development 1979-1995

In order to meet the congregation’s needs some members of the parish, suggested building a second church adjacent to another concentration of Orthodox in the…

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Archimandrite Iskandar Nasr

Archimandrite Iskandar Nasr was appointed to serve at Saint Mary in the summer of 1976. Before being appointed to Saint Mary, Father Nasr was the…

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Father Antonios Axarlis

Father Antonios Axarlis was appointed in 1997 to serve at the Saint Mary’s Orthodox Church of Dormition until June 2016 to assist Father Germanos,  first…

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Father Nicholas Smayra

Father Nicholas Smayra was ordained as a priest in 2003. Late 2016 he was appointed by Metropolitan Elias to serve in St. Mary’s Orthodox Church…

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St. Mary’s Orthodox Church  of Dormition is one of the eleven parishes that constitute the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut. The present archbishop, His Eminence Metropolitan Elias Audi, was elected by the Holy Synod, to the See of Beirut in 1980. The See of Beirut covers the Lebanese capital area and the town of Souk El Gharb, the Metropolitan’s summer resort.

The Greek Orthodox community is the second largest Christian community in Lebanon.  It  traces its history back to the year 66 A.D. when Quartos, one of the seventy disciples, founded the Church of Beirut.  The Archdiocese of Beirut is one of the nineteen archdioceses of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. The current Patriarch of Antioch is His Beatitude John X. 

Location, Buildings and Grounds

Saint Mary’s Orthodox Church of Dormition is located in an area of Beirut called Ras Beirut. The church estate (“Waqf”) is on a piece of land covering 7979m2. The Church covers an area of 630m2. Within the limits of the “Waqf” is the Saint Mary’s Orthodox College including a five floor building housing all classes 1-13 and a four floor building housing all preschool classes. Furthermore, within the grounds of the Church is the Church Center including a reception hall, the offices of the priests and the Parish Council, a library, a youth center, a conference hall, and a dispensary. The surface of each floor is 310m2. The estate also includes a rectangular building parallel to Bliss Street. The ground floor contains several shops that are rented out. This building was purchased from the American University of Beirut in 1973.  The delimitations of the “Waqf” are Bliss Street and the American University campus from the north, from the south, Makhoul street, and from the east Omar Ben Abd El Aziz street and the American University Hospital.. To the west is the busy shopping street, Jeanne D’Arc.

The Schools of the Waqf

In the early stages, the orthodox children of the parish received religious instruction in the Russian missionary schools which later became the property of the Orthodox Benevolent Association. When the orthodox schools were leased to the Ministry of Education, orthodox priests continued the instruction in the same Orthodox Tradition.

In 1971 negotiations started with the Ministry of Education concerning the building of a more modern school.   The old school buildings belonging to the waqf was demolished and over its ruins a modern building rose.

In the same year,  the Ministry of Education   agreed to   evacuate the premises if a co-educational secondary school would be established in place of the old schools. Thus, the Saint Mary’s Orthodox College was founded following the acquisition of a teaching license in the name of the Orthodox Archbishopric in Beirut. The school had a capacity of 715 students at that time, forming an inseparable asset of the Orthodox Waqf.   St. Mary’s Orthodox College has today approximately 1400 students. 


The “History of the Church” is based on the book “The church and the Orthodox Community in Ras Beirut” by Michel Gebran Rbeiz,