Article image

Our Lady of Good Health shrine in Vailankanni India. ©BrownyCat

Two faiths, one shrine

The Syrian city of Saidnaya is a place of ancient holiness. Reputedly the Virgin Mary appeared to the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century requesting not only that a church be built there in her honor but also supplying a detailed architectural plan. Saidnaya remains highly popular with pilgrims—with Christians, of course, but also with many Muslims who come on Fridays to pay their respects to the Virgin. Believers of both kinds come for healing, women usually in quest of healthy pregnancies.

Such dual use might puzzle American or European Christians. Surely, we think, shrines are sacred to particular faiths—Lourdes for Catholics, Mecca (very strictly) for Muslims. But that exclusive attitude reflects Europe’s distinctive religious history, in which Christianity was for centuries the only religion in the landscape, or at least an overwhelming majority force.


This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $2.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.

This article is available to subscribers only.

To post a comment, log inregister, or use the Facebook comment box.