Today we are going to visit Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, Cave of Elijah, and the nearby viewpoint. Let’s begin!
Stella Maris Monastery is located on the street bearing its name, i.e. Stella Maris road 100, Haifa. At this address, you can also find the upper station of Haifa’s cable car.
Map of the area:
If you are driving then enter “Stella Maris Monastery” or “Stella Maris road 100, Haifa” into the navigation app and it will take you there.
Depending on the day and time, parking can be hard to find. There are several spaces near the upper cable station, and there are also parking places in front of the monastery. If you do not find parking there, then you can continue to nearby streets, like Tchernikhovski street.
In case you are using public transport, then you can take bus #25 to the junction of Edmond Fleg and Tchernichovsky. For full public transport, directions check out this Moovit link. Just enter there your starting point and you will get updated directions.
Another option would be reaching the lower cable car station and taking the cable car up to Stella Maris.
Upper Cable Car Viewpoint
On a Saturday morning, we woke up early and drove to see the sunrise in Haifa. The pre-picked point was the viewpoint near Stella Maris Monastery.
And a wide-angle view:
From there we made a short descend towards this chapel:
If you either continue descending with this trail or take the cable car down, then you can reach Cave of Elijah. And near Elijah’s cave, you can find two marine museums. They are Israeli National Maritime Museum and Clandestine Immigration And Naval Museum.
Stella Maris Monastery is also called Carmelite Monastery. Carmelites are called after Mount Carmel. And before visiting the monastery I wanted to bring a short history extract about the Carmelites.
The Carmelites are a religious group within the Catholic Church. Their name derives from Mt. Carmel, the place of their outset.
Toward the end of the 12th century, during the crusades, a small group of Latin hermits settled on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, wishing to imitate Prophet Elijah through a solitary way of life.
Following the Prophet’s experience and with the same passion which led him to exclaim: «Burning with zeal for the Lord of Hosts», the hermits embraced a life of silence and solitude, abiding the grottos of the mountain and meditating the Word of God.
Sometime between 1206 and 1214, the Prior – of whom only the initial of the first name is known – asked Albert, the then Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, to approve a rule of life for the hermits.
This way, they obtained official recognition as a community within the local Church, a prelude to their recognition as a religious order, which took place only years later, by the Pope. A few years later, around 1226, they built a small church near their grottos, dedicated to Our Lady whom the hermits considered as a mother, patroness, and model of life and of prayer.
The excavations performed in the fifties and sixties of the last century by the Franciscan archaeologist Bellarmino Bagatti, brought to light the primitive grottos and the remains of successive buildings, with the big chapel standing out among them.
Somewhere around 1240, the first convents were founded in Europe. Even King Louis the 9th of France, returning from a Crusade (1254), brought some Carmelites back with him to Europe, thus promoting their expansion.
This is only the beginning, and you can find the full historical overview at carmelholylanddco.org
When the current Stella Maris Monastery was built?
The current church and convent were then built following the project and with the supervision of the Discalced Carmelite brother Giovanni Battista Cassini, who was an expert architect. The works started in 1836.
What Does Stella Maris Mean?
Three years later, Pope Gregory XVI gave the church the title of Minor Basilica. The Sanctuary took on the name of Stella Maris, meaning “The Star of the Sea”.
Stella Maris Church
The Stella Maris Church is a beautiful structure, its interior walls covered with white marble panels so bright and well placed, that visitors sometimes think the walls have been painted.
The dome, decorated by the Maltese Carmelite Luigi Poggi (1924-1928), depicts episodes from the Bible, the most distinct being the scene of Prophet Elijah ascending to Heaven in a chariot of fire. The statue of the Virgin Mary placed at the center of the main altar, standing on a pedestal carved from a cedar of Lebanon, is devoutly venerated by the local Christians.
Underneath the altar, one can find Elijah’s cave where according to the Old Testament, the Prophet lived for some time. Inside the cave, there is an altar carved in the rock, with a small statue of the Prophet.
On the pilaster strips of the Basilica, there are four embossments dedicated to four Carmelite Saints: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Edith Stein and St. Mariam Bouardy.
In the room at the right of the entryway, one can see a permanent Nativity Scene and a display of some artifacts of the ancient Byzantine Church that once stood on this site.
From the outside, one can enter a small souvenir shop where religious articles and scapulars can be purchased.
Just in front of the entrance to the Church, there is a pyramid memorial to the French soldiers who died after Napoleon’s retreat (1799), which reads: «How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!» (2nd Sam. 1:25) remembering King David’s lamentation over the death of Saul and Jonathan.
The church is open daily and entrance is free of charge. As per the opening hours, after checking various sites, I have seen two versions:
- 8:30 – 12:00 and 15:00 – 18:00
- 6:30 – 12:30 and 15:00 – 18:00
The first version is the one I encountered in more places. Also, during our visit, we waited until the end of the morning prayer (it was definitely much later than 6:30) and then went inside the monastery.
Since many people are asking, I looked up and here are the mass times:
Sunday: 8:00 – Italian, 9:00 – English
Monday – Thursday: 7:00 – Italian
Friday: 7:00 – English
Saturday 7:00 Arabic
Cave of Elijah
Underneath the altar in Stella Maris Monastery, you can see the Cave of Elijah. But, at the beginning of this post, I told that if you continue the descent along the trail you will reach Elijah’s cave. So where is it? The answer is that nobody knows.
The Cave of Elijah is a grotto written about in the Hebrew Bible, where the prophet Elijah took shelter during a journey into the wilderness (1 Kings 19:8).
In the Books of Kings Elijah had been traveling for 40 days and nights when he takes shelter in the cave on Mount Horeb for the night. Upon awakening, he is talked to by God.
The exact location of the cave is unknown. There is a “Cave of Elijah” on Mount Carmel approximately 40 m above sea level in Haifa, venerated for centuries by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Another cave associated with Elijah is located nearby under the altar of the main church of the Stella Maris Monastery, also on Mount Carmel.
After visiting Stella Maris Monastery we were quite hungry and drove in search of breakfast. And since I mentioned food, then I want to mention two nearby restaurants.
Near the entrance to the monastery, you can find Santa Maria cafe. Lovely place for a cup of coffee and some strudel. And if you are looking for lunch, then check out the nearby Kalamaris restaurant. They are located at the top cable car station and specialize in seafood and good views.
Bahai Gardens And The Port
Of course, I had to stop and to photograph Bahai Garden terraces and the German colony:
Note: you can find the full guide at Bahai Gardens in Haifa.
On the opposite side you can see the port:
It was not easy to find someplace to eat at 8 am on Saturday, but we managed to find a bakery with freshly made pastries.
Overall, waking up early was not that fun, but the experience and the photographs you get are well worth it.
That’s all for today and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional attractions nearby see the Haifa page.
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Sea Of Galilee.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.