Al-Farama (Pelusium)

AL-FARAMA (Pelusium)

A city located in the northwest corner of the Sinai Peninsula about 14 miles (22.5 km) east of the Suez Canal and 3 miles (5 km) inland from the Sea. Coptic tradition holds that the Holy Family stopped in al-Farama during the FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.

Attestations of Christianity in Pelusium in the Byzantine period are numerous. The Melitian bishop Kallinikos was in office in the city as early as A.D. 325. SOZOMEN reports that the patriarch ALEXANDER I (312-326) brought Kallinikos into the office of bishop and that ATHANASIUS (326-373), the next patriarch, excommunicated him and replaced him with a man named Mark (Historia  ecclesiastica  2.25).  The  name  of  Kallinikos,  however, does  not  appear  in  the  lists  of  participants  in  the  Council  of NICAEA in 325. Instead, the lists show that Bishop Dorotheus represented Pelusium at Nicaea. Nonetheless, around 335 Kallinikos attended a in Tyre as bishop of Pelusium and in 351 he subscribed the of the of Sardica as bishop of Pelusium.

The successor of Dorotheus, or perhaps of Mark, was Pankratius, who signed the of the of Sirmium in 359 as the bishop of Pelusium. In 431 Bishop Eusebius of Pelusium attended  the  Council  of  EPHESUS.  In  the  middle  of  the  sixth century a Chalcedonian bishop named George was in office in Pelusium. He had been a pupil of Saba, the father of monks, and was ordained bishop by the Chalcedonian patriarch Zoilus (538-551) sometime between 540 and 550.

A number of saints and martyrs had al-Farama as either their birthplace or place of martyrdom. Some of those associated with the city  are  Antonius  of  Banah,  Apa  Til,  Epimachus,  bishop  of Pelusium,  Hor  of  Siryaqus,  Isidore  of  Takinash,  Isidorus  of Pelusium, Piroou, and Sina (see MARTYRS, COPTIC).

Al-Farama became an important center of monasticism at an early  period.  The  APOPHTHEGMATA  PATRUM  mentions  the area often. The best-known of the monks from the area was Isidorus of  Pelusium  (c.  355-c.  435),  who  was  a  theologian  of  sorts,  an exegete, and the author of a vast correspondence (published in PG 78).

When Bernhard the Wise visited al-Farama in 870 he spoke of only one church in the city, a Mary, and though he was aware of the tradition that Mary and Jesus had stopped for a time in al-Farama, he seems not to have taken much notice of the Christians living there at the time of his own visit.

Various bishops of al-Farama from the are mentioned in the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS. In its life of I (744-767) the History speaks of a confrontation that Epimachus,   the   Coptic   bishop   of   al-Farama,   had   with   a Chalcedonian priest in his city. During the patriarchate of II (799-819), Bishop Mark of al-Farama helped bring a synodical letter from the patriarch to Antioch. The last reference to a bishop of al- Farama is from the time of Patriarch SHENUTE II (1032-1046). Shenute ordained a monk named John as the bishop of al-Farama and signed an agreement to pay him thirty dinars per year to supplement the meager resources available to John in al-Farama. However, Shenute reneged on his promise and wrote a letter postdated to the time of John’s ordination in which he anathematized the bishop.

In 1117, the fifteenth year of the patriarchate of MACARIUS II, the crusader Baldwin besieged al-Farama and destroyed the city though it was already sparsely populated.

A. H. Sayce began the archaeological investigation of Tall al- Farama, the ruins of the ancient city of Pelusium, in 1887. Later in the nineteenth century, W. M. Flinders Petrie furthered the archaeological work on the site, and in the mid-twentieth century, A. L. Fontaine excavated in the area. Despite these extensive labors no remains of Christian churches have been found in Tall al-Farama.


  • Bernard, J. H. “The Itinerary of Bernhard the Wise.” In the Library of the Palestine Pilgrim’s Text Society, Vol. 3, pp. 1-14. London, 1893.
  • Feder, A., ed. S. Hilarii Episcopi Pictaviensis Opera, pt. 4. CSCL 65. Vienna and Leipzig, 1916.
  • Munier, H. Recueil des listes épiscopales de l’église copte. Cairo, 1943.
  • Schwartz, E. Kyrillos von Skythopolis. Texte und Untersuchungen 49, pt. 2. Leipzig, 1939.
  • Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, pt. 2, pp. 926-35. Wiesbaden, 1984.