Dayr Al-Arman

DAYR AL-ARMAN

The fifteenth-century Muslim historian al- Maqrizi said that at the time the conqueror ‘Amr ibn al-‘As arrived in Egypt in 641, there were a hundred monasteries in Wadi al- Natrun. He named some that were destroyed in his time, among them the Monastery of the Armenians, or Dayr al-Arman. For his part, MAWHUB IBN MANSUR IBN MUFARRIJ, who continued the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS begun by SAWIRUS IBN AL-MAQAFFA‘, named only seven monasteries in Wadi Habib, the name then given to Wadi al-Natrun. He did not speak of a Monastery of the Armenians. The existence of a Monastery of the Armenians, the patron saint being unknown, must have been toward the end of the Fatimid period when the influence of the Armenians was very strong.

H. G. Evelyn-White (1932) placed its establishment after 1088 and before 1136, which is the date of the loss of the Armenians’ political power. It was, in his opinion, a symbol of the views shared by Copts and Armenians regarding the orthodox faith, for the Armenians, too, were anti-Chalcedonians. A man of Armenian origin, Badr al-Jamali, became first minister at the end of the eleventh century and was succeeded by his son, and an Armenian Christian, Bahram, was proclaimed vizier by the troops in 1134, but two years later he had to abdicate, which marked the end of Armenian power in Egypt.

Proof of the presence of the Armenians in Wadi al-Natrun is found in two multilingual manuscripts of the twelfth century deriving from Scetis. They are written in Armenian, Coptic, Arabic, Syriac, and Ethiopic. (This polyglot Bible is in the Ambrosian Library at Milan.)

There is no document that allows one to give a precise date for the disappearance of this monastery. One may remark only that the Armenians, more than any others, suffered from the invasion of Shirkuh and his army (Lane-Poole, 1925, pp. 179-85). Perhaps Dayr al-Arman disappeared at the time of the third invasion of Shirkuh (1168-1169).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Evelyn-White, H. G. The Monasteries of the Wadi ‘n Natrun, Pt. 2, History of the Monasteries of Nitria and Scetis, New York, 1932; repr. 1973.
  • Lane-Poole, S. A History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. History of Egypt 6. London, 1925.

RENÉ-GEORGES COQUIN

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