The imposing Stella Maris (Latin for "Star of the Sea") is graced by wall and ceiling paintings that bring to life the dramatic story of the prophet Elijah, the patron of the Carmelite order, and that depict King David, the Holy Family, and the four evangelists. During the Crusader period, hermits emulating Elijah's ascetic life lived in caves on this steep mountain slope. In the early 13th century, they united under the leadership of Saint Berthold, who petitioned the
patriarch of Jerusalem for a charter. Thus was born the Carmelite order, which spread across Europe. The Carmelite monks were forced to leave their settlements on Mt. Carmel at the end of the 13th century and could not return for nearly four centuries. When they found Elijah's cave inhabited by Muslim dervishes, they set up a monastery nearby.
The church of the present monastery dates from 1836 and was built with the munificence of the French monarchy, hence the name of the surrounding neighborhood: French Carmel. A small pyramid memorial topped with an iron cross commemorates those French who were slaughtered here by the Turks in 1799 after the retreating Napoléon left his ailing troops behind at the monastery. Inside, paintings in the dome depict Elijah in the chariot of fire in which he ascended to heaven, and other biblical prophets. The small grotto a few steps down at the end of the nave is traditionally associated with Elijah and his pupil, Elisha.
Stella Maris Rd., Haifa, 31090, Israel