September 18, 2013

The White Monastery and Red Monastery near Sohag

The White Monastery near Sohag
This Monastery, dedicated to St Shenuda, dates from the fourth century. It is approached from the southern part of the riverine village of Sohag, about kilometres westwards. It bears a strong resemblance, from a distance, to an Egyptian temple. Neither this monastery nor the Red Monastery have resident monks. Together they formed the largest community of monks in Upper Egypt during the fifth century.

Sohag Egypt
The Church of St Shenuda occupies the largest part of the monastery, and it clearly shows architectural features that were inspired by indigenous tradition: the three semi-circular apses and surrounding chambers and the separation of these inner chambers from the nave and narthex (terrace). The latter, which is preceded by stairs, leads to galleries.

White Monastery
The three apses are dedicated to St Shenuda at the centre, to St George and the Virgin Mary on each side. They are vaulted and made of burnt-brick. The walls are decorated with columns, each surmounted by architraves forming niches. The deeply cut stonework is characteristic of the period.

The library of this monastery contained letters that represent one of the original and chief sources of Coptic literature.
White Monastery
The Red Monastery near Sohag
This monastery, which is smaller than the White Monastery, is situated about three kilometres north of it. The Red Monastery was also built at the edge of the cultivated land; in fact, it is in the midst of the village.

Red Monastery
The Church of St Bishoi has many features similar to the Church of St Shenuda: the three-aisled nave with gallery and the unusual freestanding columns; these columns frame niches that are hollowed out in the semi-circular apses.

Red Monastery
Both the White and Red Monasteries are characterised by great simplicity and have massive outer walls with no decoration.

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