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Monastery of Saint Anthony

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Coordinates: 28°55′26″N 32°21′0″E / 28.92389°N 32.35°E / 28.92389; 32.35

St. Anthony's Monastery 2006

A view of St. Anthony's Monastery in July 2006.

The Monastery of Saint Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in an oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, hidden deep in the Red Sea mountains. It is located 155 km (100 miles) southeast of Cairo.

Foundation and History

The monastery was built around 356 on the burial site of Saint Anthony. Little is known about its earliest history. During the sixth and seventh centuries, many monks from the monasteries of Scetes went to the monastery of Saint Anthony, in order to escape the frequent attacks by the Bedouins and Berbers. The monastery itself was plundered a number of times by the Bedouins of the Eastern Desert, who partly destroyed it in the 11th century. It flourished between the 12th and 15th centuries, but was plundered again in 1454 by the Bedouins. In response to these attacks, a fortress-like structure was built around the monastery for its protection.

Modern History

St. Anthony's Monastery (inside) 2006

The interior of St. Anthony's Monastery.

The modern monastery is a self-contained village with gardens, a mill, a bakery and five churches. The walls are adorned with paintings of knights in bright colors and hermits in more subdued colors. The wall paintings have been worn over the centuries by soot, candle grease, oil and dust. In a collaborative effort between the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the American Research Center in Egypt, restoration has been undertaken on the paintings. The oldest paintings in the monastery date to the 7th and 8th centuries, while the newest date to the 13th. There is also woodwork inside Saint Anthony's Church that has been restored.

The monastery also has a library with over 1,700 handwritten manuscripts. The library probably contained many more volumes, but was significantly reduced by the Bedouins who plundered the monastery and used many of the manuscripts as cooking fuel.[1]

The cave where Saint Anthony lived as a hermit is a 2 km hike from the monastery, and 680 meters above the Red Sea level. In 2005, the monks' cells dating to the 4th century - the oldest ever found - were discovered beneath the Church of the Apostles.[2]

Like all of Egypt's monasteries, the monastery of Saint Anthony is experiencing a renaissance and a growth in the number of its monks. Today, the monastery is accessible from Cairo, Suez or Hurghada.

Current Abbot

The current abbot of the monastery is His Grace Bishop Yustus (Justus).

Popes from Monastery of Saint Anthony

See also


ar:دير الأنبا أنطونيوس

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