Built in the ruins of an earlier church from Byzantine times, and located within the Stella Morris Monastery, the Basilica was constructed in 1836.
Entering the vestibule of the church, one sees on the floor an inscription in Latin “Ave Maris Stella”, meaning “Hail Star of the Sea”. A marble plaque reminds that in 1841 the church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The red marble frieze over the entrance to the door to the nave of the church says, “Pope Gregory XVI grants the title of Minor Basilica”.
Once inside the Basilica, the eyes immediately rise upon the wooden statue of Mary. First it was a dressed sculpture, made by Caraventa of Genoa (Italy) in 1820 and blessed by Pope Pius VII in 1823. One hundred years later the body of the statue was redone in cedar of Lebanon wood by Riedi, only the face of mother and child remained unchained. It was blessed by Pope Pius XI before returning triumphantly to Haifa by sea.
In the lower part of the prebystery we find the ancient cave often inhabited by “Elijah the great leader and father of the prophets” as written over its entrance.
The dome is rich in paintings done by Bro. Luigi Poggi (1926-27), a Maltese Carmelite Friar who lived in the monastery: in the large ovals the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are portrayed.
The entire interior of the Basilica is lined in marble with soft colors and delicate veins, and on the ledge around, two large writing from the Bible in carved letters on golden background celebrate the beauty of Mount Carmel.
In 1990, on the four large areas between the pillars, four white marble bas reliefs with golden decor were made: they are the work of Serafino Melchiorre, a Discalced Carmelite friar from Rome. They depict the interior castle of St. Teresa of Avila, the ascent of Mount Carmel of St. John of the Cross, the artist’s representation of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – Edith Stein – (converted to Catholicism, became a Discalced Carmelite religious in the Monastery of Colony and who was martyred in Auschwitz in 1942) and finally, St. Mary of Jesus Crucified – Miriam Baouardy – flower of the Palestinian Carmel.
Inside the monastery, there are four chapels to accommodate groups of pilgrims for celebration of the Holy Mass. The Stella Maris Monastery is located in the same building, where the Discalced Carmelite friars carry out their daily life of prayer and welcoming the pilgrims who come to Mount Carmel to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Prophet Elijah.
Outside the Basilica on a small square, a pyramid recalls the sacrifice of Napoleon’s French soldiers who died during the Siege of Acre in 1799 by the Turks who won, allied with Great Britain and Russia opposing the French control in the Middle East.
By the side of the lighthouse, a column rises with a Corinthian capitol with the statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child in her arm. It was erected by the Republic of Chile in 1894 as a symbol of venerating her as Queen of Chile, to protect the Chilean people and preserve it in the love of God and country.
Further information may be found at www.carmelholylanddco.org.
Extracted – Basilica Stella Maris Pilgrim Centre