Egypt Picture - Monastery of St. Anthony

Monastery of St. Anthony

Monastery of St. Anthony


Christine Osborne


Monastery of St. Anthony


After a time Anthony withdrew from Pispir to seek solitude in the Eastern Desert. Even here his fame attracted visitors, so leaving behind a second community of anchorites he moved into a cave in the mountains. Anthony is said to have died at the ripe old age of 105, having sworn two trusted monks to secrecy concerning the whereabouts of his body. He did not want his tomb to be venerated. Some say he was buried under the floor of the cave. Another tradition maintains that the body was moved in 561 A.D. to the Church of St. John the Baptist in Alexandria and then to St. Sophia in Constantinople. Otherwise, the body is said to rest in various locations in France. Whatever the truth, a monastery was eventually set up in the fourth century in the Wadi Araba in the Eastern Desert, near the cave where Anthony lived for the last years of his life.

St. Anthony's Monastery is the oldest and largest Coptic monastery in Egypt. There is little to see of the original monastery today, as it was rebuilt in later centuries. It remained a great center of scholarship where Coptic works were translated into Arabic until 1483, when it was attacked by the Bedouin and the monks killed or expelled. It has now been reoccupied, and a self-supporting community carries on it's tradition.

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