St. John the Baptist Convent
The history of Khenchara Al-Jwar is strongly attached to the history of St. John Convent. In fact, up until the end of the eighteenth century, Khenchara was still part of Choueir village before the two were separated by zoning. At the end of that century, some monks from Balamand Monastery decided to establish an independent convent where they could freely practice their Roman Catholic faith. They went to Choueir where they found a church served by Father Rizkallah Sawaya who was also converting to Catholicism. They purchased the church from him and established a convent named after St. John. 1710 was considered the official date of establishment of the Basilian Chouerite Order in Khenchara.
The establishment of St. John Convent played a pivotal role in the village’s history. A soon as the monks purchased and reclaimed some lands, families from all over Lebanon and the Levant flocked to the village to work at the vineyards in return for a share agreed upon with the Convent. Villagers built houses on the Convent’s lands and acquired them later on by contracts. Their relationship with the monks was not limited to this partnership in crops but included religious services. In fact, the monks established several churches in the area, the first being St. George Church, and played an educational role by establishing many schools in Khenchara and in other Lebanese regions.
St. John Convent flourished and many other convents mainly in Ras Baalbek, Baalbek, Zahle and Saidnaya followed in its wake under the mandate of Abbot Nicholas Sayegh considered the actual founder of the Chouerite Order. The role played by the Convent spread from Khenchara to all Lebanon and the Levant. Three Melkite Catholic patriarchs and 47 bishops served in the Convent and many well-known figures of the Lebanese and Arab Renaissance graduated from the schools of Khenchara.