Saint Charbel: A Touch of Lebanon in Mexico

Saint Charbel

Just inside the door of the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, on the well manicured Plaza de La Paz, is a statue of an exotic, hooded monk. He’s festooned with ribbons (listones) inscribed with prayers and pleas for healing.

San Charbel Makhluf (1828-1898), a Maronite Catholic from Lebanon, is credited with miracles of healing that occurred long after his death; he attained sainthood from Pope Paul VI in 1977.

But what does a kind-eyed Lebanese Monk from the other side of the world, who took a vow of poverty and became a hermit, have to do with devout followers in Mexico?

He was introduced to Mexico in the early 1900s by Lebanese immigrants of the Maronite faith, and has achieved an astounding popularity across the country. Among these Mexican-Lebanese descendants is Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men. Fascinating.




We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

29 thoughts

  1. It always surprises me about what I don’t know. Have never even heard of Saint Charbel. Thanks for showing the picture and enlightening me. On the other hand, I know of Carlos Slim since Parade magazine and other publications are always touting the richest people in the world. Hmmm. Wonder who really has the most influence? I think I’m hoping it’s the saint! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Rusha, I felt the same way! When we saw the statue we were both mystified, so I had to do a bunch of research to figure it all out. But that’s the fun part, and he’s such an endearing guy. As for who really has the most influence, I think San Charbel’s appeal will be long-lasting … and we know it’s far-reaching! 🙂 ~Terri

  2. Fascinating. Only now that I’ve moved to Spain can I fully appreciate just how many saints and saint’s days there are! and now here’s another, I hadn’t heard of Saint Charbel either so thank you for sharing 😀

    1. Hi Lottie! We had never seen or heard of him either until visiting Colonial Mexico, but his statues seem to be incredibly popular in many of the churches. I’m sure you run into the same kind of mysteries there in Spain. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Sue, That’s a great question. We don’t remember seeing him in other churches, but we could have missed him. This is the first “basilica” we’ve visited – there isn’t one in San Miguel or Morelia, and basilicas hold a special status in the church. It also appears that the “Maronite Catholics” patronize specific churches, and this was an exceptional statue and very well cared for and loved. ~Terri

      1. It’s very interesting Terri. I love these scavenger hunt kind of things. I will definitely keep my eyes open for him next time I’m in Mexico!

      2. The ‘heavenly hall of fame’…I like that 🙂 thanks for the article Terri.
        By the way did you buy James some of those pointy cowboy boots?

    1. I know Tom! At first we thought it was a map or some kind of sacred marking – like palm reading. Then we realized it was listone luster. 🙂 At least it’s for a good cause. ~Terri

  3. I loved reading this story when we were in Mexico. I believe I have a similar photo in one of my Mexico posts. 🙂 We are now in Brunswick, GA, having arrived yesterday afternoon. Wish you two were here! 🙂

    1. Thanks LuAnn. I find it fascinating that San Charbel’s popularity transferred from Lebanon to Mexico. Do you know if his statue is only in basilicas?
      Have fun on the Georgia leg of your trip. I see from the comments that you’re going to stay at Skidaway – we love that place. 🙂 And Savannah’s historic district is wonderful. When are you heading up to Savannah? ~Terri

      1. Terri, I am not certain if San Charbel is only in the basilica.

        We are heading to Savannah on the 27th and will be at Skidaway for a week. Unfortunately it has been cold, windy and rainy here in Brunswick. We did some exploring yesterday in St Simons and today hope to get to Jekyll Island with some friends who will be arriving later today. It looks like bike riding might be out of the question. Oh well, not all days can be sunny. 🙂

      2. You’ll love Jekyll Island LuAnn. The “cottages” at the Jekyll Island Club are very cool. The front porch is a great place for a glass of wine. Also, for future reference, if you get a chance, go to the far north end of the island and check out the campground. It’s a true barrier island oak hammock, and it’s very neat. We tent camped there a few times, and ultimately, these camping trips were what landed us on SSI. Have fun in Savannah. Terri.

      3. Thanks so much Terri. We will check out the “cottages” at the Jekyll Island Club and perhaps have a glass of wine there as well, as we and our friends enjoy a glass of red. We did attempt to get into the campground but nothing was available at the time. We are at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, and although nice, we much prefer camping in places like Jekyll Island campground.

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