Deir Mar Antonios

Monastery of Saint Anthony


Useful Information

Location: Near village of Bush, Eastern Desert, southern part of the Suez Governorate. (28.92°N 32.35°E)
Open: Holy Lent (Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday) Fri, Sat, Sun 4-16:45.
Rest of year daily 4-16:45.
[2020]
Fee: free, donations welcome.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=7m, A=680m asl.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed without flash
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:
Address: St Antony’s Monastery, 26G St Mark Church Claude Bey Cairo, Tel: +20-2-590-6025, Fax: +20-2-590-1500. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

251 Anthony born.
285 Anthony gives away all his worldly possessions and goes into the Eastern Desert to seek a life of solitude.
298–300 monastery erected.
5th century St. John the Short lives and dies in the monastery.
615 John the Merciful, the Melkite Patriarch, sent Anastasius of Persia, the head of the Monastery of St. Anthony, large sums of money and asked him to take some Melkite monks who were persecuted by the Persians.
11th cty plundered a number of times and partly destroyed by the Bedouins of the Eastern Desert.
12th cty monastery restored.
~1300 visited by Ludolph of Suchem, a parish priest in the diocese of Paderborn.
1395 visited by Ogier VIII d'Anglure and several French pilgrims.
15th cty devastated by the same Bedouins the monastery employed, and all of the monks were killed.
16th cty monastery occupied and rebuilt by Syrian monks.
1946 monastery more accessible after the opening of the Suez–Ras Gharib Road.
2002 $14.5 million project to restore the monastery started by the Egyptian government.
2010 restoration completed.

Description

Deir Mar Antonios (Monastery of Saint Anthony) was founded in the 4th century in an oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. It was dedicated to Saint Anthony the Great.

Anthony was born to a wealthy family in Lower Egypt around 251. His parents died when he was eight years old. At the age of 34 he heard Mark in which he was told to give up all of his belongings and seek God. He donated all his properties to charity and ventured into the Eastern Desert to seek a life of spiritual reflection. He was illiterate and took the words he heard in a literal sense. He made his abode in a small cave where he practiced an ascetic life. Although St. Anthony was not the first hermit, he attracted many followers and disciples. He is one of the fathers of modern Christian monasticism.

After the death of Saint Anthony his followers still lived around the hermit cave. Between 298–300, during the reign of Constantius Chlorus, the first monastery was erected. Monks lived in solitary cells surrounding a communal center where they performed the Divine Liturgy. There was a refectory where they took their daily meals. But the focus on asceticism diminished with time.

The monastery grew in the 6th and 7th century when frequent attack by Bedouins and Berbers forced monks from the monasteries of Scetes to flee to the Monastery of Saint Anthony. It was raided and even destroyed various times. After a decline during the 19th century it was revived, and since the construction of a road it is accessible by car. Before the only way to reach it was to take a camel caravan to the nearby village Bush, which took several days. In the 1950s about 370 visitors came to the monastery in the whole decade, which was an substantial increase. Today the monastery has several thousand visitors on holiday weekends.

The cave of St. Anthony is a 2km hike from the monastery up a long staircase. The ascend takes about an hour. The cave is only 7m long, St. Anthony was serious about his ascetic life.

There is also a new Church of Resurrection outside the monastery complex. The cave entrance is quite impressive as the cliff face was sculpted with crucifixion scenes and the entrance itself looks like the round door of a Hobbit home. We guess it is actually a replica of a typical rock tomb in Jerusalem, like the one where Jesus was buried before his resurrection.