The monastery, carved out of rock near the source of the Orontes (Assi) River, has been in decline for many years, as natural forces and shepherds seeking shelter from winter storms have taken their toll. According to some historians, Roman engineers were the first to inhabit the site, staying in an opening they carved into rocks while they worked to irrigate the surrounding areas.
The Orontes River emerges just 50 meters from the original cavern. In the 4th century A.D., a Syriac monk (Saint Maron) is said to have inhabited the opening, and it became known as “the monk’s cave.”
Later, this monk was joined by others who were early students of Mar Maroun, the priest whose teachings founded the Maronite sect. After the monks left the cave, the area fell under control of the Mamluks and the Ottomans. Later it was left abandoned and vulnerable to decay.