DAYR ABU AL-SAYFAYN (Tamwayh)
The village of Tamwayh is situated on the left bank of the Nile, 16 miles (25 km) to the south of Cairo. It is rich in Christian artifacts (see Amélineau, 1893, pp. 477-78).
The first mention of the Monastery of Abu al-Sayfayn (Saint MERCURIUS) appears to be that of al-Shabushti (1939, pp. 20, 27) at the end of the tenth century or beginning of the eleventh.
At the beginning of the thirteenth century ABU SALIH (1895, pp. 177, 197-98) gave the same approximate geographical situation as al- Shabushti, whom he quotes: “opposite Hulwan.” In reality, this town is to the southeast of Tamwayh. He indicated that the church was destroyed by the troops of Caliph al-Saffah, who was pursuing Marwan II in 750, and was restored in the years 1102-1130. Abu Salih adds that in the church is the body of Saint PAPHNUTIUS, anchorite and superior of this monastery and celebrated on 15 Amshir, although Abu Salih states that the DAYR AL-SHAM‘ possessed his relics. In the time of Abu Salih, the monastery was well populated with monks.
This monastery was also mentioned by the Arab geographer Yaqut in 1200 (1870-1873, Vol. 2, p. 674).
Al-MAQRIZI (1893, Vol. 2, p. 504) reproduced what Yaqut wrote, in particular about the vocalization of the name Tamwayh. In fact, it is written Tammuh, closer to the Coptic system. He also cited al-Shabushti, who described the monastery as one of the most beautiful places in Egypt. Al-Maqrizi named Saint George as the patron of the monastery, no doubt confusing it with a church dedicated to this saint and pointed out by Abu Salih (1895, p. 198) as in the district of Tamwayh.
The History of the Patriarchs (Vol. 3, pt. 3, pp. 179 [text], 318 [trans.]) mentions the restoration of the monastery of Abu al- Sayfayn during the patriarchate of Demetrius II (1862-1870).
Several travelers have mentioned it: Norden (1795-1798, Vol. 2, p. 19, pl. 28); Pococke (1743, pl. 7, plan of greater Cairo), who called it the church of the village of “Abouenemora”; and Brown (1800, p. 258), who called it the monastery of “Abou Nemrus.” Abu al-Nimrus is a village to the north of Tamwayh (Ramzi, 1954-1968, Vol. 2, pt. 3, p. 3; cf. Amélineau, 1893, under “Ponmonros,” pp. 361-62). S. Clarke (1912, p. 205, no. 8) attached it to the bishopric of the Fayyum and Giza.
The monastery, like many others, became a Christian village (Meinardus, 1965, p. 241; 1977, p. 347).
- Amélineau, E. La Géographie de l’Egypte à l’époque copte. Paris, 1893.
- Browne, W. G. Nouveau voyage dans l’Haute-Egypte. Paris, 1800. Clarke, S. Christian Antiquities in the Nile Valley. Oxford, 1912. Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed. 1977.
- Norden, F. Voyage d’Egypte et de Nubie, 3 vols., ed. L. Langlès. Paris, 1795-1798.
- Pococke, R. A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, Vol. 1. London, 1743.
- Ramzi, M. Al-Qamus al-Jughrafi lil-Bilad al Misriyyah, 3 vols. Cairo, 1953-1968.
- Shabushti, al-. “Some Egyptian Monasteries,” ed. A. S. Atiya. Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 5 (1939):1-28.
- Yaqut ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Hamawi. Kitab Mu‘jam al-Buldan, 10 vols. Cairo, 1956-1957.
- . Jacut’s Geographisches Wörterbuch, 6 vols., ed. F. Wüstenfeld. Leipzig, 1866-1873. Repr. Tehran, 1965, Beirut, 4 vols., 1955-1957.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J