BAYT AL-NISA’ (Arabic, House of the Women)
An area within the church reserved for the women, which became usual only in modern church buildings in Egypt. The practice was incorrectly dated to the tenth century (in Butler, 1970, pp. 19ff.) on the basis of a wrong assessment of the Mercurius church at DAYR ABU SAYFAYN. Where possible, it has its own entrance from the outside. Thus, in more recent churches, the Bayt al-Nisa’ takes over the function of the galleries of the early Christian and medieval BASILICA.
There is a fine example in the al-‘Adhra’ church (seventeenth-eighteenth century) of Bani Adyad (south of Manfalut), in which the Bayt al-Nisa’ lies west of the naos proper and is separated from it by a wide arched opening with a lattice, and two lateral windows. The separate entrance is on the southern short side. In the old church of DAYR ABU HINNIS the Bayt al-Nisa’ was added on the south side of the church, where at the same time several large arched openings had to be cut in the wall. In most cases the Bayt al-Nisa’ is separated from the church area only by a wooden lattice. Thus in the two monasteries at Suhaj the south conch today serves as a Bayt al-Nisa’. In the church of Dayr al- Naqlun the northern side aisle was set apart as a Bayt al-Nisa’.
- Butler, A. J. The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. Oxford, 1970.