, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 The Monastery of St. Simeon in Egypt ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

May 13, 2012

The Monastery of St. Simeon in Egypt

The Monastery of St. Simeon, 1799
Vivant Denon

I took the opportunity offered by the reconnoitring which was pushed into the desert on the right bank, to seek for the quarries spoken of by Pococke, and an ancient convent of Cenobites. After half an hour’s march, I discovered this building, in a little valley, surrounded by rugged rocks, and by sands which their decomposition produced. The detachment, in pursuit of its route, left me to my researches in this place.

Monastery of St. Simeon
Scarcely was this gone, when I was alarmed by my solitude. Lost in long corridors the re-echoed noise of my steps under their melancholy vaults, was perhaps the only one which, for many ages, had troubled their silence. The cells of the monks resembled the cages of animals in a menagerie; a square of seven feet was illumined only by a dormer-window at the height of six feet; this refinement of austerity, however, robbed the recluse only of a view of a vast extent of sky, an equally vast horizon of sand, an immensity of light as melancholy and more painful than night, and which would have but increased, perhaps, the afflicting sentiment of his solitude.

In this dungeon, a couch of brick, and a recess serving for a press, was all that art had added to the bareness of the four walls; a turning box, placed beside the door, still proves that these solitaries took their repasts apart. A few mutilated sentences written on the walls, were the only testimonies that men had inhabited these abodes. I thought I saw in these inscriptions their last sentiments, a last communication with the beings who were to survive them, a hope which time, that effaces all, had still frustrated. . . .

Oppressed by the feelings with which these series of melancholy objects had inspired me, I went into the court, in search of space: surrounded by lofty and embattled walls, covered ways, and the embrasures of cannon, all announced that, in this dismal place, the storms of war had succeeded to the horrors of silence; that this edifice . . . had at divers epochs, served for the retreat of vanquished parties, or the advance post of vanquishers. The different character of its construction may also give the history of this edifice. Begun in the first ages of Christianity, of all that was built by her has still preserved its grandeur and magnificence; that which war has added has been done in haste, and is now more ruinous than the former. In the court, a little church, built with unburnt bricks, attests that a small number of solitaries has returned at a later time, and reassumed possession; to conclude, a more recent devastation gives reason to believe that it is only a few ages since the place has been wholly restored to the abandonment and silence to which it has been condemned by nature.

I was rejoined by the detachment, and, on leaving the convent, I seemed to leave a tomb.

The Brassy Landscape of Nubia, 1927 
Constance Sitwell

Some hours later we set out, Jim and I riding in front, Philip following at a little distance behind.
We were going up a mountain from which one got a distant view over the brassy landscape of Nubia. It was past noon when at last we reached our goal, a ridge on a craggy cliff facing the south. Arid was the land immediately around us, a confusion of jagged peaks and twisted ravines. It might have all been cast in some heavy metal, so hard and so massive with its surface spread out under a sky hazy with heat.

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