One of the most special and holy sites in Egypt is the great St Antony Monastery located within an oasis in the eastern Sahara since the 4th century which makes it the oldest monastery on the planet. It was constructed by Saint Anthony followers who were the first Christian saint and the first to establish a monastic community in the Coptic age of Egypt. St Antony Monastery is known as the most significant monasteries in Egypt that have a strong influence over the rest of the several Coptic institutions across Egypt. Now, the monastery is a massive complex surrounded by tall walls with a number of smaller churches, a teeming garden a bakery. There are about 120 monks living there who dedicate their lives to seeking God in the isolation and motionless of the desert, totally focused around prayer and worship.
History of St Antony Monastery
The monastery of St Antony in Egypt was created in 356 AD by St. Antony who was considered the first person to establish Christian monasticism, which originated in the Egyptian desert. During the 6th and 7th centuries, many monks from Wadi Natroun were under attack by Bedouin tribes so they moved to St. Antony’s. But this monastery was stolen on various occasions and almost partly put in ruins during the 11th century. It grows in power and importance in-between the 12th & 15th centuries but was plundered again in 1454 AD by Bedouin servants. Because of such attacks, the monastery was built in fortress style where it remains till today where it has gone under several numbers of restorations.
St Antony Monastery Location
St Anthony Monastery is at the front of Khelsm Mountain which looks over the Red Sea where it is believed to be located where St. Anthony once lived inside a cave as a monk.
Tourism at St Antony Monastery
The Monastery of St. Anthony is the largest monastery in all of Egypt where it covers an area of more than 18 acres including a huge garden filled with countless fruits & vegetables. Inside the monastery are a number of artifacts such as old paintings dating to the 7th, 8th, and 13th centuries. St Antony Monastery is a village filled with gardens, a bakery, and a mill plus 5 churches, the most known of which is St. Antony’s Church which travelers from all over the world come to explore.
Best Attractions to See Inside St Antony Monastery
1. The Church of St. Anthony
St Antony Monastery dates to the 4th Century, rectangular in shape, and measures 20 m by 10 m. It is divided into four sections: one for the monks, one for the priests, one for bishops, and the final for the elderly monks. All 4 parts are covered with 3 huge and colorful majestic domes plus a number of beautiful woodwork to St. Anthony.
2. The Church Of the Apostles
It is a little church with 3 altars just like the main church, it has a rectangular shape and is divided into 4 sections, each of them is covered with a dome and connected to the Church of St. Anthony by a small corridor.
3. The Church Of the Virgin
It is built on the second floor of the monastery and is relatively small in size and is divided into three sections, each section is separated from the other by a wooden grille.
4. The New Church
It dates back to the 19th Century A.D. and is the newest and biggest construction in the monastery. It was constructed with modern architectural designs and contains 12 rooms. The monks don’t use it for prayer because the church is not fully guided towards the east which goes against Coptic beliefs.
5. The Library
St Antony Monastery used to have an enormous library filled with books and manuscripts. Unfortunately, most of this treasure of manuscripts was stolen by various 5th-century European invaders who desired to fill their cathedrals with manuscripts. It was estimated that what is left in the library was around 1,000 books and over 1,700 handwritten manuscripts that were transferred to Cairo for safety.
6. The Fort
This was a protection sanctuary fort for the monks in times of danger. It was constructed in the 6th century A.D. across 200 sqm. It has three floors and the only door located on the second floor which made it difficult to break into and offered more security in dangerous historical times.
7. The Guesthouse
The guesthouse was constructed in the 19th Century and consists of 4 rooms and a long hall, plus being equipped with lots of furniture and facilities making it a great place to stay.
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