Dayr Abu Lifah

DAYR ABU LIFAH

The ruins of this monastery are situated 1.25 miles (2 km) northwest of Qasr al-Saghah, on the southeastern spur of the Jabal Qatrani mountain chain, approximately 8 miles (13 km) north of Lake Qarun. Among the seven Coptic inscriptions that Henri MUNIER and André Pochan discovered at this monastery, there were two with dates, A.M. 402/A.D. 686 and A.M. 574/A.D. 858. This means that we have definite evidence of its occupancy by Coptic monks between the seventh and ninth centuries.

Apart from the archaeological evidence, the first literary reference to this monastery is a fifteenth-century manuscript published in 1907 by Ahmad Kamal under the title Le Livre des perles enfouies.

In the Middle Ages the monastery was also known as the Dayr Abu Banukh. In the seventeenth century, Dayr Abu Lifah, though in ruins, was still well known to the inhabitants of the Fayyum, as recorded by J. M. VANSLEB. By 1966 the southern part of the monastery, which was hewn out of the soft sandstone, had broken away. The only remains of the monastery are two caves that are cut into the rock. The first cave is situated 16 feet (5 m), and the second cave 40 feet (12 m), below the summit of the mountain.

Either earthquakes or rain must have caused the collapse of the southern section of the monastery, entailing a considerable fall of rock and leaving no more than the northernmost caves in situ. There is a good reason to believe that the last vestiges of Dayr Abu Lifah will eventually disappear as more and more of the mountain collapses.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Bittel, Kurt. “Kasr el Sagha.” Mitteilungen des deutschen Instituts für ägyptische Altertumskunde in Kairo 5 (1934):1-10 and 4 pl.
  • Brown, R. H. The Fayum and Lake Moeris, p. 52. London, 1892. Caton-Thompson, G. The Desert Fayum, Vol. 1, p. 81; Vol. 2, pl. 86, p. 6. London, 1934.
  • Kamal, Ahmad. Le Livre des perles enfouies, p. 178. Cairo, 1907. Meinardus, O. “Dair Abu Lifah Revisited.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 19 (1970):177-80.
  • Munier, H. “Le Deir Abou-Lifa.” Bulletin de la société d’archéologie copte 3 (1937):1-5.
  • Vansleb, J. M. Nouvelle Relation en forme de journal d’un voyage fait en Egypte 1672 et 1673, p. 268. Paris, 1677.

OTTO F. A. MEINARDUS

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