Dayr Al-Khandaq


This monastery was founded around 970 on a large tract of land to the north of Cairo. It also included a cemetery and replaced another monastery-cemetery situated on what is now the site of al-Aqmar Mosque, which dates from the period. Near this tract was the moat () that General Jawhar al-Siqill had dug against the Carmathians (al-Maqrizi, 1853, Vol. 2, p. 507; cf. Casanova, 1901, p. 167).

At that time, Dayr al- included five churches dedicated to the Virgin: the churches of Mar Jirjis, Theodorus, Mercurius, Abu Maqar, and Apollo, son of Justus (Abu al-Makarim, 1984, pp. 18f.). There was also a dayr al-Malak Ghubriyal alongside Dayr al-Malak Mikha’il (‘Abd al-Masih Salib al-Masu‘di al-Baramusi, 1924, p. 153).

The Coptic patriarch CYRIL II gave the Church of Saint Macarius to the Armenians; they gave it the of Saint George. At the same period, the Church of Saint Apollo, son of Justus, was given to the Syrians ( 1959, Vol. 2, pt. 3, pp. 225 [text], 355-56 [trans.]).

Al-MAQRIZI (1853, p. 511) wrote that the Church of Mar Jirjis was transformed into the church of Anba Ruways, a church that still exists. The tomb of the saint, who died in 1404, survives (Graf, 1947, Vol. 2, p. 475; Troupeau, 1972, Vol. 1, pp. 252-53). The patriarch MATTHEW I and his three successors were buried in the Church of Anba Ruways (Meinardus, 1965, p. 216; 1977, p. 309).

Two Arabic were written for Dayr al-Malak al-Bahari in 1660 and for Anba Ruways in 1740 (Simaykah and Yassa ‘Abd al-Masih, 1942, Vol. 2, 1, nos. 787 and 1072), showing that the dayr still existed at that time.

Those churches actually surviving are the Church of Anba Ruways, near the new Cathedral of Saint Mark, and the Church of Saint Michael al-Bahari, near the Dimirdash railway station. The Church of Saint Apollo has disappeared. For an account of the present situation, see Burmester (1955, pp. 87, 89).

[See also: Dayr al-‘Izam (Cairo).]


  • ‘Abd al-Masih Salib al-Masu’di al-Baramusi. Kitab Tuhfat al-Sa’ilin fi Dhikr Adyirat Ruhban al-Misriyyin. Cairo, 1924.
  • Abu al-Makarim. Tarikh al-Kana’is wa-al-Adyirah, ed. Samu’il al- Suriyani. Cairo, 1984.
  • Burmester, O. A Guide of the Ancient Coptic Churches of Cairo. Cairo, 1955.
  • Casanova, P. “Les Noms coptes du Caire.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 1 (1901):139-224.
  • Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed., 1977.
  • Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Vol. 1. Paris, 1972.