Dayr Al-Barshah And Dayr Al-Nakhlah


[The first name is that of a village south of DAYR ABU HINNIS. It is a modern village, inhabited by Copts on the site of an old monastery, of which—apart from the old church—no parts worth mentioning have survived. The second is that of a village near the first, around which hermitages are numerous. The first part of this entry reviews the history of these two villages. The second part discusses the architecture of both places.]


The church of Dayr al-Barshah is dedicated to Anba Bishoi. According to tradition, Anba Bishoi, monk of SCETIS, fled before the Maziques, who devastated in 407, along with JOHN COLOBOS, who took refuge at Clysma (al-Qulzum). Anba Bishoi, for his part, fled into the mountain of Antinoopolis where he died in 417. His body is said to have been transferred in the ninth century to Wadi al-Natrun. Dayr al-Barshah is supposed to have been founded by him (Evelyn-White, 1932, pp. 158ff.).

The same story is mentioned in the SYNAXARION at 8 Abib. A description was given by J. M. VANSLEB (1677, p. 397; 1678, p. 237). E. F. Jomard also gave an account of it (Vol. 4, pp. 324-25). S. Clarke mentioned it (1912, p. 181), as did M. Jullien (Munier, 1940, p. 157).

Ramzi (1953-1963, Vol. 2, pt. 4, p. 66) thought that the Dayr al- Barshah was the Roman military post called Preht in the Coptic texts and Abrahat in the Arabic texts.

Dayr al-Nakhlah is today a village, but was formerly a monastery dedicated, according to M. Jullien (1894, p. 157), to Saint Isaiah the Solitary. Near the monastery a wadi a kilometer in length bears the name Wadi al-Nakhlah. It contains numerous caves or tombs that were inhabited by anchorites. Vansleb was the first European to notice it (1677, p. 396; 1678, p. 237). The caves are mentioned by Wilkinson (1843, Vol. 2, p. 62), and Jullien (1894, p. 494) also described them.

Excavations have been carried out on the site, and the results will be found in Newberry (1873, Vol. 2, pp. 57-64) and Ahmad Kamal (1901, pp. 221-22). The graffiti and inscriptions were published by A. H. Sayce (1881-1882, p. 181; 1886-1887, p. 196) and by J. Clédat (1901, p. 102; 1902, pp. 66-67). The Greek texts were published by G. Lefebvre (1907, p. 43).

The site was described by Johann Georg (1930, p. 22) and O. Meinardus (1965, pp. 267-68; 1977, p. 375). It is not known whether the tombs were occupied by several hermits or by a more organized colony of anchorites.


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Several neglected monks’ dwellings with crosses and inscriptions in the pharaonic quarries and graves of the adjacent Wadi al- Nakhlah point to the former existence of a monastic settlement in this place (Newberry, 1873, 57.62ff.).

The Church of Anba Bishoi in Dayr al-Barshah is essentially a modern building, but at least some parts go back to an older foundation, which can perhaps be dated from the twelfth or thirteenth century. The northern section especially, with the apse, the khurus (room between the naos and the sanctuary), and both the middle pillars in the naos, might be original. The area to the left next to the apse has kept its old form, a simple side room of the apse, and is reached through an ordinary door, but it is now furnished as a loge (MAQSURAH) with many paintings. The side opening that connects the room with the apse serves as an area for women to receive communion. By a stair in the outer northern aisle at about the height of the khurus partition wall, the so-called upper church is reached, a PAREKKLESIA from a later time.


  • Grossmann, P. Mittelalterliche Langhauskuppelkirchen, pp. 39ff. Glückstadt, 1982.
  • Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern, pp. 267ff. Cairo, 1965.