Ma`loula (Arabic معلولة: from the Aramaic word ܡܥܠܐ, ma`lā, meaning 'entrance') is a village in Syria. With two other nearby villages, is the only place where the western dialect of Aramaic is spoken (see Western Neo-Aramaic). It is a mainly Christian village (Melkite) located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 meters. As of 2005, the village has a population of 2,000.
There are two important monasteries in Ma`loula: Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla. The Mar Sarkis monastery was built in the 4th century on the remains of a pagan temple, designed on the model of martyries, which have a simple, plain appearance. It was named after St. Sarkis (St. Sergius), a Roman soldier who was executed for his Christian beliefs. This monastery still maintains its solemn historical character. Mar Taqla monastery holds the remains of St. Taqla (Thecla); daughter of one of Seleucid princes, and pupil of St. Paul. According to legend, in the 1st century C.E, St. Taqla was being pursued by soldiers of her father to capture her because of her Christian faith. She came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split open and let her escape through. The village gets its name from this gap or entrance in the mountain. However, there are many variations to this story among the residents of Ma`loula.
There are also the remains of numerous monasteries, convents, churches, shrines and sanctuaries. There are some that lie in ruins, while others continue to stand, defying age. Many pilgrims come to Ma`loula, both Muslim and Christian, and they go there to gain blessings and make offerings.
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