10.3.11

French Protestant Cemetery Near Sodeco

I found the gate locked, and since there was a phone number posted on it I took this photo, thinking I'd call later and hopefully be allowed an appointment to go in some other day.

Just the information here made me want to see the inside. The smaller plaque to the side states that the graves of 17 WWI era German Soldiers are also at this cemetery.

I was about to walk on, but then someone called to me over the gate and about a minute later, the door opened.

There was an old man in there with two younger men--the old man explained that I was welcome to see the site for $4. I didn't have $4, but I did have LL 20,000 ($13). For about half a second I weighed my options and inwardly rolling my eyes at myself, I handed over the LL 20,000. He told me I wouldn't be allowed to take pictures, but I insisted that I would and he said no more.

It was wild in there, weeds grew up to my knees. Most of the headstones were broken, and many of them had German inscriptions--not just of soldiers, but regular people.  There were several nationalities in there. I tried to take good photos of everything but fell short.

This one in particular caught my eye. Here are two views of it taken while facing north (on the left) and east (on the right). The inscription in the photo on the left reads "Appointed United States Consul to Beirut Syria September 21st 1893". Times have changed.  Beirut isn't in Syria these days.  The inscription in the photo on the right says:

Far hence he lies in some lone Syrian town,
And on his grave with shining eyes
The Syrian Stars look down.
T.R.G.


I have a third photo of this marker that gives the death date as September 20, 1896. But somehow I missed the fourth side that would have included his name.

It took an insupportable amount of googling, but I did eventually find out who the American Consul to Beirut was in 1893. His name was Thomas R. Gibson (T.R.G.). He was a newspaper editor from Georgia, appointed consul to Beirut during the administration of US President Grover Cleveland and died of small pox while in service. Gibson was a childhood friend of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected US President years later (1912). It is through that connection that I found a brief biography of him, from which almost all of what I've related here was taken.

8 comments:

  1. So very interesting.
    Do you think the stones broke just from falling over or ... ?
    Wish they'd use some of that bakshish for upkeep.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome find and experience ! I'm marvelling. Your photos are fine, and fascinating...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not sure why so many stones were broken. Some had bullet marks but others simply looked time-worn.

    The three men in there were working in one corner, pulling weeds I think. In fairness, it's the rainy season and this is the only time of year when there's enough water for the weeds to grow knee high.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So very beautiful. Fantastic that you are able to capture this side of Lebanon.

    ReplyDelete
  5. OK, the men were working. I take back my words. They probably deserved your generous contribution. Good.

    ReplyDelete
  6. No worries, Dina. I found my interaction with those men quite baffling, and I'm not at all convinced one way or the other about their actions or mine.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Mary Ann
    I came across this post while doing research on the Christian Cemeteries there. I am researching a Spanish consul who worked in Beirut in the 1870s and whose wife died during his stay there. His name was Manuel Jose Quintana and he was the nephew of a very famous Spanish poet of the same name. This is a newspaper clipping -[1876 Death: Lady Isabel Quintana Y Brodett, 21 January Spanish Consulate Peyrout Syria]. I was surprised to see the stone of the United States Consul of a similar period. I assume she was buried there, and in a Christian cemetery. Would you have any idea of the names of the local cemeteries she could have been buried in? Sorry to bother you like this but I am based in Dublin, Ireland. I am keeping a website of my research of the famous poet and his descendants: http://www.gaelart.net/quintana.html [my own website is http://www.gaelart.net and my email is caoimhghin@yahoo.com. best wishes, caoimhghin

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good day,

    This blog does not seem to be active, but I wanted to mention that the French Protestant cemetery of Beirut is now undergoing a major renovation project lead by the French Protestant Church of Lebanon (www.epfb.net).

    Any visitor can now (since 2014) visit the cemetery for free - no bakshish, no entry fee whatsoever - and see some remarkable graves.

    The renovation project is about to enter in its operational phase begining of 2016 for a 1 to 3 years phased plan.

    In one month, we will post on the website www.epfb.net a register document issued and completed from various history archives and testimonies detailing each grave.

    Hope to see you for a visit anytime soon.

    Damien BK

    ReplyDelete