Monastery of the Syrians

Monastery of the Syrians

Wadi Natrun

The Monastery of the Syrians, also known as the al-Surian, is one of the four surviving monasteries in Wadi Natrun situated in an area of the Western Desert. Its valuable collection is a beacon for visitors, who come in reverence to admire its rare relics for their artistic qualities

          Currently, it is the smallest surviving monastery of Wadi Natrun and is the most famous amongst clergymen and scholars around the world. Although the monastery’s foundations date back to the fourth century AD, it is known as the Monastery of the Syrians because of a group of al-Surian monks who settled in Wadi Natrun in 984 AD.

          The monastery includes a number of monumental buildings including a fortress, a group of monastic cells, and three large churches named the Virgin Mary, the Cave of Virgin Mary, the Church of Archangel Michael.

          The Church of the Virgin Mary is the monastery’s main church. Built in 645 AD, it is also its oldest building after the Cave of Anba Bishoy to its west, and features beautiful engravings covering its walls, doors, and domes. In 1994, a team of researchers from the University of Leiden examining the plaster layers covering the walls of the church discovered many frescos (wall paintings) from the seventh to eighteenth centuries AD. Among the depictions are the birth and death of the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ carrying her soul.

          An extensive and rare collection of Syriac manuscripts was discovered in the monastery’s library during the nineteenth century. This unparalleled collection, currently housed in the Vatican Library and other institutions, includes some of the oldest Greek texts by Aristotle, Euclid, and Hippocrates.

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