Dayr Al-Maymun


It is known that Saint ANTONY at first lived near the Nile before going into isolation near the Red Sea. This place near the Nile was called Pispir or Tilodj (Palladius, 1898-1904, chap. 25). Thus, one finds: “When I arrived at his monastery which is near the river, at the place named Pispir … I waited for him five days” (Rufinus, PL 21, II, 8; Lefort, 1943, p. 267, n. 2).

There is sometimes hesitation about thinking that Dayr al- Maymun perpetuates the ancient Pispir. It may be thought that the latter has gradually been moved closer to the river.

According to tradition, two monasteries preserve the memory of Saint Antony, the one near the Red Sea and the other near the Nile. The oldest testimony appears to be that of Postumianus: “Duo beati Antonii monasteria adii, quae hodieque ab eius discipulis incoluntur” (I came to two monasteries of the Blessed Antony, which even today are inhabited by his disciples).

ABU SALIH THE ARMENIAN (1895, p. 163), at the beginning of the thirteenth century, called it Dayr al-Jummayzah and mentioned thirty monks. Al-MAQRIZI (d. 1441; 1853, Vol. 2, p. 502) placed it opposite al-Maymun and also called it Dayr al-Jud.

A marginal note in the manuscript of Saint Antony (Theol. 209), reproduced by Kamil Salih Nakhlah (1954, pp. 74, 75), explains that DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS was called Dayr al-Jummayzah, where Antony lived. This note was added after the patriarch GABRIEL VII died in this church in 1568 (Coquin and Laferrière, 1978, pp. 276-77).

It was mentioned by sixteenth-century travelers such as O. d’Anglure (1878, p. 68) and J. Coppin (1971, p. 204), and in the seventeenth century by J. VANSLEB (1677, p. 294; 1678, p. 178). The eighteenth century produced the testimony of C. SICARD (1982, Vol. 1, p. 75), who spoke of “the little Saint Antony on the Nile”; R. POCOCKE (1743, p. 70); and F. L. Norden (1795-1798, Vol. 2, p. 31, pl. 69).

The Book of the Hidden Pearls (Daressy, 1917, pp. 199, 201,203) calls it Dayr al-Badla (Monastery of the Exchange), for one exchanged the Nile boat for a desert mount when one went to Saint Antony. The site is certainly very old; the great church dedicated to Saint Antony is built on rock.

[See also Abu al-Makarim.]


  • Anglure, O. d’. Le Saint voyage de Jherusalem, ed. F. Bonnardot and 1878. Longnon. Paris, 1878.
  • Coppin, J. Les Voyages Egypte. Cairo, 1971.
  • Coquin, R.-G., and P.-H. Lafèrriere. “Les Inscriptions pariétales de l’ancienne église du monastère de St. Antoine dans le désert oriental.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 78 (1978):266-321.
  • Daressy, G. “Indicateur topographique du ‘Livre des perles enfouies et du mystère précieux.'” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 13 (1917):175-230.
  • Lefort, L. T. Les Vies coptes de St. Pachôme. Bibliothéque du Muséon 16. Louvain, 1943.
  • Nakhlah, Kamil Salih. Silsilat Tarikh al-Batarikah, Pt. 4, Dayr al- Suryan in Wadi-al-Natrun, 1954.
  • Norden, F. L. Voyage d’Egypte et de Nubie, ed. L. Langlès, 3 vols. Paris, 1795-1798.
  • Pococke, R. A Description of the East and Some Other Countries, Vol. 1. London, 1743.
  • Sicard, C. Oeuvres, Vol. 1, ed. S. Sauneron and M. Martin. Bibliothèque d’étude 83-85. Cairo and Paris, 1982.
  • Vansleb, J. Nouvelle relation forme de journal d’un voyage fait en Egypte en 1672 et 1673. Paris, 1677. Translated as The Present State of Egypt. London, 1678.



Dayr al-Maymun has its origin, according to the probably reliable local tradition, in the former supply station of the hermitage of Saint Antony on the Red Sea (Abu al-Makarim, fol. 55b; al- Maqrizi, trans. Wüstenfeld, 87, no. 6, Dayr al-Jummayzah). From here camel caravans set out at regular intervals to supply the needs of the saint, his disciples, and his guests, and here, too, every visit to the monastery down to modern times had its starting point. Today there is a modern village on the site of the monastery, and the old monastery buildings have disappeared. Only two churches situated close beside one another recall the old tradition. The older is dedicated to Saint Mercurius. Its nave consists of a domed two- column building (rather a reduced four-column building), which a three-part sanctuary adjoins on the east. There is no khurus (room between the naos and sanctuary). The larger and slightly later church of Saint Antony has been spoiled by later additions. In the nineteenth century it still possessed a dome supported by granite columns with Corinthian capitals, the supporting arches of which had lower vaults in the shape of semidomes attached on all four sides (Chester, 1873, pp. 111f.). Originally this building seems also to have been of basilican structure, as is suggested by various reused marble pillars and all kinds of capitals lying about in the area. Of the sanctuary, only the small south room has retained its original form, that of an apse side room. The two northern rooms are side haykals (sanctuaries) with an amorphous rotunda appearance. Both churches in their present form probably derive only from the Ottoman period.


  • Chester, G. J. “Notes on the Coptic Dayrs.” Archeology Journal 30 (1873):111ff.
  • Grossmann, P. Mittelalterliche Langhauskuppelkirchen und verwandte Typen in Oberägypten, pp. 178-80. Glückstadt, 1982.
  • Meinardus, O. Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert, pp. 21-23. Cairo, 1961.
  • Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, Vol. 2, pp. 742-749. Wiesbaden, 1984.