The Red Monastery is a Coptic Orthodox monastery named after an Egyptian saint called Pishay (who is not to be confused with the famous Saint Pishoy). It is located near the Upper Egyptian city of Souhag, and about four Km north west of the White Monastery. The name of the monastery is derived from the color of the construction material of its outside walls, consisting of red (burnt) brick. These walls are considerably thicker at the base than at the top, and just like the walls of Ancient Egyptian temples, they are surmounted by cavetto moldings. The Red Monastery is architecturally similar to the White Monastery.

Foundation and Ancient History

The history of the foundation of the Red Monastery is not known, and it is thought to have been built at the fourth century AD. by an Egyptian saint called Pishay (who is not to be confused with the known Saint Pishoy). This saint was a contemporary of Saint Pigol, the founder of the White Monastery.

The monastery is mentioned in the writings of the fifteenth century Egyptian historian Al-Maqrizi. In 1798, the monastery was ransacked and burned down.

Modern History

Currently, the monastery is occupied by only a few monks, but the church still serves the Coptic communities of the surrounding villages, as well as the pilgrims who visit during the big feasts of the Coptic liturgical year.

Today the Red Monastery is also very significant for art historians. It may include the only standing ensemble of architecture, sculpture, and paint (areas fully covered with paint) left from the late antique period in the entire Mediterranean. Some of the paint is certainly post-fifth century, but a lot of it may well be early.

A plan is being developed for the restoration of the Red Monastery by the University of Roma Tre and the South Valley University in Egypt.

See also


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