Painting from the Abdallah Nirqi church, Nubia. It shows a theophany as well as a bishop.


The site of a medieval town and cemetery located in on the west bank of the Nile, about 4 miles (6 km) to the east of the temple of , now under the water of .

Painting from the Abdallah Nirqi church, Nubia. It shows a theophany as well as a bishop.
Painting from the Abdallah Nirqi church, . It shows a theophany as well as a bishop.

The name means “place of ‘Abdallah,” after the name of a local farmer in the time of the survey of (1921-1934). A partial excavation was made by a Dutch mission (director A. Klasens, 1962-1964, central church) and a Hungarian mission (director , 1964, central part and western suburb, the northern and southern church of Town A, a sector of Cemetery 249).

St. Epimachos, Abdallah Nirqi
St. Epimachos, Abdallah Nirqi

The earliest settlement consisted of poor houses in an irregular ground plan, and Ballana horizon pottery was discovered in the southern part of the centre of Town A. In the central part and western suburb of the settlement, sudden growth occurred from the second half of the seventh century, with some building of substantial double houses, such as a longitudinal barrel-vaulted room divided into two parts. Occasionally there were small yards and housing for individual family units.


From the middle of the , unit houses were built. They were larger, mostly two-storied buildings with one larger transversal barrel-vaulted room occupying the whole width and three smaller vaulted rooms perpendicular to it. At that time a network of streets reached down to the river.


The central church, built around 700-750, contained the first painting in violet style (apse: Maria orant between apostles; walls: protection by Virgin, protection by the archangel, standing ) (Jakobielski, 1982, pp. 154ff.) The southern church came slightly later.

Possibly in the early ninth century, a citadel wall was erected around the central part including the central church. It was not for defensive purposes, however. Repainting of the central church in white and multicoloured style took place from the early eleventh century onward. Protection scenes show archangel, a saint, the Nativity, the Virgin, , Christ in tondo, Christ with book in a rectangular frame, Christ in (shield) between the over a cross, the theophany of the cross, saints on horseback, a scene with a saint, and a “man in the jar” by the painter of Archangel Michael in the , now in the (Martens-Czarnecka, 1982, pp. 60ff.). Most of these well-preserved wall paintings are now found in the in Old Cairo. The painting of the southern church in multicoloured style is attributed to the eleventh century (saint on horseback, protection scene, bishop). The northern church is placed at the cemetery built in the late eleventh century. A gradual decline took place from the late eleventh to the early . A collapse led to the rebuilding of the vaults of the southern church in the , and the end of the settlement came in the late thirteenth century.

From the seventh to the ninth centuries a certain sector of Cemetery 249 was excavated. Small finds from the central church are now in the at Leiden. The Egyptian Department of the Museum of Fine Arts at conserves some artefacts from Town A and Cemetery 249, and there is one glass vessel (unpublished) in the , Cairo.


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