The Monastery of the Holy Virgin (Dayr al-Muharraq) is situated near the towns of al-Qusiyah and Gabal Qusqam in the present governorate of Assiut. According to medieval sources, this area is believed to be the Holy Family’s southernmost stop, where they dwelt for six months at the end of their flight into Egypt.
The main source for this tradition is The Vision of Theophilus, which is attributed, very probably in a later date, to Patriarch Theophilus (385-412). The text describes Dayr al-Muharraq as the “holy mountain” and compared it to Mount Sinai and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
The History of the Churches and Monasteries of Egypt provides a tradition that Christ, accompanied by his mother and the Apostles, consecrated the church in which the Holy Family dwelt for six months. Each year on 15 November the monks of Dayr al-Muharraq commemorate Christ’s post-Resurrection visit to Qusqam as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 19:19, “On that day there will be an altar in the center of the land of Egypt.” However, the date of the foundation of Dayr al-Muharraq and its early history are not known.
The History of the Churches and Monasteries of Egypt (early 13th century) refers to the restoration of the monastery’s keep. Patriarchs Gabriel IV (1370-1378), Matthew I (1378-1409), Matthew II (1452-1465), and John XIII (1484-1524) had been chosen from among the monks of al-Muharraq. In medieval times, Ethiopian monks stopped at al-Muharraq on their way to Jerusalem.
The monastery is one of the most popular pilgrimage centers in Egypt, which is visited yearly in June by hundreds of thousands of the faithful. There is a theological seminary at Dayr al-Muharraq that is affiliated with the Clerical College of Cairo.