On a high flat-topped hill or “tell” surrounded by olive groves, Amioun lies in the heart of the Koura region. Here is a wealth of churches whose stones testify to the passing of several civilizations.
Mar Fauqa, or St. Phocas, built by local architects during the Crusader period. The entire interior of St. Phocas is covered with paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries. One of the frescoes represents Christ descending into hell and holding out a helping hand to Adam and Eve. On the pillars are painted figures of Christ, Saint Phocas, Simon Stylites and other saints.
Saint Phocas, sometimes called Phocas the Gardener or Phocas of Sinope , is venerated as a martyr by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Christian tradition states that he was a gardener who lived at Sinope, on the black Sea, who used his crops to feed the poor and also aided persecuted Christians. During the persecutions of Diocletian, he provided hospitality to the soldiers who were sent to execute him. The soldiers, not knowing that their host was their intended victim, agreed to his hospitality. Phocas also offered to help them find the person who they sought.
As the soldiers slept, Phocas dug his own grave and prayed. He made arrangements for all his possessions to be distributed to the poor after his death. In the morning, when the soldiers awoke, Phocas revealed his identity.
The soldiers hesitated and offered to report to their commander that their search had been fruitless. Phocas refused this offer and bared his neck. He was then decapitated and buried in the grave that he had dug for himself.