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 tomb 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 Scetis 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.
- Ahmad Kamal. “Rapport sur les fouilles exécutées à Deir el- Bersche.” Annales du Service des antiquités de l’Égypte 2 (1901):206-222.
- Clarke, S. Christian Antiquities in the Nile Valley. Oxford, 1912. Cledat, J. “Notes sur la nécropole de Bersheh.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 1 (1901):101-102.
- . “Notes archéologiques et philologiques.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 2 (1902):41-70.
- Evelyn-White, H. G. The History of the Monasteries of Nitria and of Scetis, Pt. 2, The Monasteries of the Wadi ‘n Natrun. New York, 1932.
- Johann Georg, Duke of Saxony. Neue Streifzüge durch die Kirchen und Klöster Ägyptens. Leipzig and Berlin, 1930.
- Jomard, E. F. Description de l’Egypte, Vol. 4. Paris, 1822-1826. Jullien, M. Les Grottes de la Basse Thebaïde. Lyons, 1894.
- Lefebvre, G. Recueil des inscriptions chrétiennes d’Egypte. Cairo, 1907.
- Meinardus, Otto. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed., 1977.
- Muhammad Ramzi. Al-Qamus al-jughrafi lil-bilad al Misriyyah, 3 vols. Cairo, 1953-1968.
- Munier, H. “Les Monuments coptes d’après les explorations du père Michel Jullien.” Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie copte 6 (1940):141-68.
- Newberry, P. E. Ed Bershek, 2 vols. Archeological survey of Egypt, ed. F. Griffith. With appendix, plans and measurement of tombs by G. Willoughby Frazer. London, 1873.
- Sayce, A. H. “Coptic and Early Christian Inscriptions in Upper Egypt.” Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 4 (1881-1882):117-23.
- . “Dated Inscriptions of Amenophis III.” Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 9 (1886-1887):195-97.
- Vansleb, J. M. Nouvelle Relation en forme de journal d’un voyage fait en Egypte en 1672 et 1673. Paris, 1677. Translated as The Present State of Egypt. London, 1678.
- Wilkinson, G. Modern Egypt and Thebes, Vol. 2. London, 1843.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.
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.