When it comes to religion in Egypt, the majority of us prefer to think of either the country’s dominant religion, Islam, or, especially in terms of tourism, the country’s historical religion. Today we are going to discuss Christian Monuments and Monasteries in Egypt. The majority of us find the beliefs of god-king pharaohs, the afterlife and the idea of many deities fascinating, and these topics are often the focus of tourism. You may know by now that Christianity also had a significant historical impact on Egypt and continues to do so.
Early Christianity began to grow in Egypt in the first century AD and developed alongside Egyptian culture and language, eventually becoming the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is still in practice today.
The Red Monastery
The Red Monastery is 21 kilometers west of Sohag province. It is considered one of the most important monasteries founded during the early history of Christianity. It is known as the Red Monastery because of the red bricks that make up the majority of its construction. Several columns of pink and black granite, as well as white limestone, were used in the construction of the building.
Saint Bishoy founded the monastery in the early 4th century AD, but it was destroyed by two fires, the first in Roman times and the second due to Berber attacks.
For decades, visitors to the famous but dilapidated Red Monastery Church of Sohag have seen only dark, gloomy traces of what was once one of Byzantine Egypt’s most spectacular painted shrines. In this important place of worship, the luminous glories of these ancient murals have been restored.
The American Research Center in Egypt, which has sponsored much of the Coptic Orthodox monastery’s activities since 2003, received funding from the US Agency for International Development. Because the main basilica has lain in ruins for much of its 1400-year history, attempts at restoration have been hampered by the site’s fascinating and complex life. The workers had to repair the old poor restorations, repair and repave the floors so that the old walls would not collapse. From termite and bird damage to leaky roofs and suitable replacement doors for historic architectural flaws, the global preservation team has worked with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities to address everything from lighting to masonry, a new altar with reused columns.
Saint Anthony Monastery
St. Anthony’s Monastery is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in an oasis in the Egyptian Eastern Desert, in the southern part of Suez Governorate. It is 334 kilometers (208 miles) southeast of Cairo, nestled deep in the Red Sea Mountains. The disciples of Saint Anthony, the first Christian monk, founded the monastery of Saint Anthony. The Monastery of Saint Anthony is one of the most famous monasteries in Egypt, having influenced the establishment of various Coptic organizations as well as monasticism in general. The monastery has produced several patriarchs and hundreds of pilgrims visit it every day.
Monks began settling at the foot of Gebel Al Galala Al Qibliya, where their spiritual leader resided, in the 4th century AD. The monastery is now a large complex with many churches, a bakery and a beautiful garden enclosed by high walls. The 120 monks who reside here have dedicated their lives to finding God in the solitude and isolation of the desert, in a life entirely centered on prayer. The monastery evolved in a few decades from a loosely organized community of hermits to a somewhat more communal life in which the monks continued to live anchorite lives, but in cells grouped together inside a fortified courtyard. Despite the changes, the monks continue to follow the traditions and precedents set by Saint Anthony, Saint Paul and their forerunners 16 centuries ago.
The majority of the monks who lead the tours will take you to a section of the monastery’s fortified walls for a short walk to see the huge wooden basket and winch that was once the only way to access the complex in the event of an invasion. The monastery was attacked by Bedouins in the 8th and 9th centuries, then by enraged Muslims in the 11th century, and by vicious servants in the 15th century, who massacred the monks. The small mud-brick castle to which the monks retreated during these raids is visible from the top of the walls. Visitors are generally not allowed to enter.
Except during Advent and Lent, when it is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the monastery is open every day of the year. It is completely closed to visitors during Holy Week.
St. Paul’s Monastery
The Monastery of St. Paul the Anchorite, commonly known as the Monastery of the Tigers, is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, near the Red Sea Mountains, which dates back to the 4th century CE.
The monastery, located about 155 kilometers south of Cairo, was given the name Tiger Monastery due to its remote location amid the moonscape of the Egyptian desert. It has a rectangular shape which is 200 meters long by 100 meters wide and covers approximately five acres of land. The monastery was erected above the cave where Saint Paul the Anchorite resided for nearly 80 years in the 5th century AD.
Several Bedouin attacks have taken place during the history of the monastery, the worst of which occurred in 1484. All the monks were massacred and the monastery was looted, after which the Bedouins occupied the structure for the 80 years following. The monastery was rebuilt under the patronage of Pope Gabriel VII of Alexandria (1526-69 CE), but was attacked and destroyed again towards the end of the century. Under the patronage of Pope John XVI of Alexandria, the monastery lay abandoned for 119 years until it was completely renovated and repopulated by monks from St. Anthony’s Monastery (1676-1718 CE).
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St. Paul’s Monastery is the second oldest Coptic Christian monastery nestled in Egypt’s long and diverse history, and it is an extremely important place in Egypt’s long and varied history. Visitors can also view some of the monastery’s manuscripts, including a Coptic language interpretation of the "Divine Liturgy". A trip to the tower and a look at the "Pool of Mary", where Mary, Moses' sister, bathed her feet during the Exodus, can be included in a visit to the site.
Why Should Tourists Care About Visiting Monasteries? In fact, many people visit Egypt especially to see sacred monuments as it is a holy part of the country. Egyptian monasteries, on the other hand, have become very popular tourist spots, and not just for religious visits. This is due to a variety of factors. For starters, due to the natural tendency of historic monasteries to remain isolated, many are original structures, as opposed to churches and other buildings of the same age, which have often been renovated. Pharaonic monuments, on the other hand, are often shells or, at best, empty buildings stripped of their original furnishings and fittings. In the monasteries, daily and modern life is often accompanied by icons, furniture and other living accessories that date back almost to the time of Christ. Egyptian monasteries are of course the oldest in the world.
Sherif Khalil owns dunes and beyond. Dunes & Beyond offers luxury tours, Nile cruises and desert safaris in Egypt.
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