September 30, 2013

The Monastery of Deir el Muharraq

The Monastery of Deir el Muharraq
This monastery is situated about sixty-five kilometres south-west of Assiut and is best approached from al Qusia. It is the largest monastery in Upper Egypt, long known for its charitable work among the villagers. Unlike many desert monasteries that are totally isolated, Deir el Muharraq is located at the edge of the agricultural land; the monastery buildings are contained within a surrounding wall of irregular shape.

Monastery of Deir el Muharraq
Deir el Muharraq belongs to the group of monasteries founded by St Pachom (Aba Bakhum in Arabic) and his successors. Its history is not clear. According to tradition, the Church of the Blessed Virgin was the first church to be built in Egypt (the monks claim that it was constructed after St Mark’s arrival in Egypt about AD 60). It was built on the site of a cave where the Holy Family is said to have stayed for three years. Biblical scholars and historians agree that it was in a cave at Deir el Muharraq that Joseph dreamed that an angel of the Lord appeared, informing him of Herod’s death and bidding him to take Jesus and Mary and return to Palestine.

Monastery of Deir el Muharraq
The Church of the Blessed Virgin is situated more than a metre below the level of the court. The altar stone, which bears the date 11 December, 747, is shaped like a stele. St Peter and St Paul built another church above the original one, only part of which remains. It was demolished in the nineteenth century, when the new Church of St George was built on the site.

Monastery of Deir el Muharraq

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