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Saydnaya in Syria is the second most important Christian pilgrimage in the Middle East after Jerusalem, in terms of the number of visitors.The increase in its importance and popularity is due to the numerous and unlimited miracles which occur upon the intercession of Mary, Our Lady, The Mother Of God - Theotokos.
Saydnaya contains an icon of The Virgin Mary and the child Jesus painted by St. Luke the Evangelist in the 1st century A.D. The Icon's name is "Shaghoura" which means "The Famous One".
The story of the church and monastery which were built in Saydnaya on top of a high mountain in Syria date back to 547 A.D.when the Emperor Yostinyanus and his army were camping in the area, preparing to fight the Persians. He spotted and followed a deer to the top of the mountain, where he discovered a badly needed water supply, a large spring of fresh water for his thirsty army. Suddenly the deer changed into a brilliant icon, and he heard a voice requesting him to build a church in honor of Our Lady.
The church contains several old and precious manuscripts and icons.
An interesting story happened when Saladin was fighting the Crusaders in the twelfth century A.D. His hungry troops invaded the monastery of Saydnaya and took possession of all food supplies and provisions found there. However, upon loading the provisions on horses' and camels' backs, the horses and camels refused to move no matter how hard Saladin tried. Eventually, he had to unload all food supplies and return them to their rightful owners before he could move on.