50 km north of Damascus; Maalula is situated at an altitude of more than 1500 meters. By far, the most important Christian site in Syria is the magnificent village of Maalula. The word Maalula means entrance in Aramaic, probably referring to the gorge in between the mountains. Maalula is the one of the few remaining villages in the world that still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.
St Sergius Chapel
There are two chapels above the village whose loyalty is divided between the Greek Catholic and the Orthodox churches. The first chapel, which is of the Greek Catholics, is on the escarpment left of the gorge; the St. Sergius convent (Mar Sarkis). This tiny chapel, probably built on the site of a pagan temple, has architectural elements which go back to Byzantine period. Mar Sarkis is designed after the pattern of the martyrion (a shrine dedicated to a martyr) and is dedicated to Mar Sarkis (St. Sergius), a Roman soldier who was executed for his Christian beliefs. This chapel is considered one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in Christendom. On the plateau behind the church, there are also remains of ancient rock-cut tombs.
St Thecla Monastery
Downward into the village, on the right of the gorge, is the other chapel, a Greek Orthodox institution dedicated to St Thecla (Mar Takla), it's located in the lower monastery. Thecla was the daughter of a Seleucid prince and a young disciple of St. Paul. She is believed to be buried in the mountain just above the monastery. On the top floor is a modern church with a dome and a cave into which filters water with miraculous properties.
Thecla was being pursued by soldiers of her father to capture her because of her Christian faith. She came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split open and let her escape through. The town gets its name from this gap or entrance in the mountain.
There are three major festivals: the Holy Cross Festival on September 14; the Festival of Mar Takla on September 22; and the festival of Mar Sarkis on October 7. Hundreds of visitors attend these celebrations and they enjoy some of the most imaginative festivals in the whole of Syria.