The name Harissa is drawn from the word Haras, meaning a sharp blade, or sheer edge, in Hebrew and Arabic, a reference to the area's precarious position above the sea.
Harissa is also a stunning, moving, fascinating site in Lebanon. In the mountains above Beirut, or to be more precise Jounieh, towers a statue. The statue forms the centre of a marian shrine, a Shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary, patron saint of Lebanon.
The statue was made in France, of bronze, then painted in white. Weighing 20 tons, it was erected on the top of the hill 25km from Beirutand , taking seven sections to get the whole thing together. It provides a startling landmark, 650m above sea level, visible from miles around. Inaugurated in 1908, it's been an attraction for generations of pilgrims since.
The statue of the Virgin dominates a sanctuary (a chapel in the pedestal). A panoramic view is guaranteed at the top of the statue. A cable car links the coast to the Belvedere.
Inside the statue's base there is a small chapel. Among other churches of various denominations, it is worth mentioning the Byzantine-style, Melkite Greek Catholic Basilica of St. Paul, located to the south. The Papal Embassy, as well as the residences of four Eastern Catholic cardinals church, are in the vicinity of Harissa and Our Lady of Lebanon.
The site was visited by both Pope Jean Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.