Al-Ashmunayn ()

(modern al-Ashmunayn) was an important administrative center in Middle , with a long history. In times, one of the largest temples in honor of Thot, the ibis-headed god, , and of the gods, was built here. The al-Ashmunayn derives from the Egyptian name of the city. In the middle of the third century, established itself and became a bishop’s see. At present, the ancient city is in ruins. research has revealed churches in the region. Among these is a great basilica (mid-) that was one of the most impressive houses of worship in .89 The remains of the basilica, with columns of the nave still standing, testify to a prosperous past.

A pilgrim’s account from the late fourth century connects Hermopolis with the . The unknown author relates that when first entered the city, all idols fell to the ground, fulfilling the prophesy in Isaiah 19:1 “the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence” Already at that time ruins of Egyptian temples were visible everywhere and must have seemed convincing proof to visitors.90

Later traditions and sources supported the view that the Holy Family traveled through the area and stories and legends were around their sojourn. Hermopolis became an important site and it became the first city that was explicitly related to the Holy Family’s travels in Egypt.

89 For an , see “The of ” in this volume, pages 24-25.
90 VIII-1 ( and Ward 1980, 70). Cf. 2001,13&40.

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