Dayr Al-Sham‘


The most ancient testimony is that given at the beginning of the thirteenth century by ABU SALIH THE ARMENIAN (1895, pp. 194-95), who saw an inscription dating a of the monastery from the year 951.

Abu Salih explained the nickname Dayr al-Shayyatin (Monastery of the Demons) by saying that the monks had abandoned it because of mysterious apparitions. It was repopulated by PAPHNUTIUS, who came from SCETIS. This would have been the one who was present at the death of ONOPHRIUS and buried him. The body of Paphnutius, on Abu Salih’s report, rested in this monastery.

According to the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS OF THE EGYPTIAN CHURCH (1959, Vol. 2, pt. 3, pp. 241 [text], 384 [trans.]), the patriarch MICHAEL IV placed the monastery under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Giza. The II restored the monastery (Vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 34 [text], 55 [trans.]; Abu Salih, 1895, p. 195). In the time of the patriarch MICHAEL V Ibn Nafra was consecrated bishop in this monastery (Vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 59 [text], 63 [trans.]).

The list of relics drawn up by the History of the Patriarchs includes the body of the martyr Paphnutius, preserved in the Dayr al-Sham‘. This text appears to contradict Abu Salih, who does not speak of a martyr.

Abu Salih (1895, pp. 192, 194, 195) situated the monastery at Minyat al-Shammas and said that in his time the church had three altars, one dedicated to ANTONY, the second to SHENUTE, and the third to Paphnutius, and that it had many monks.

In the middle of the thirteenth century the monastery depended on the patriarch, for LAQLAQ died and was buried there.

In the thirteenth century Yaqut (1870-1873, Vol. 2, p. 673) also knew this monastery; he pointed out that it served as residence for the patriarch when the latter came to Cairo and that the monastery was three parasangs distant from al-Fustat (Old Cairo), passing by the Nile. The monastery was still mentioned in 1375 in the State of the Provinces (‘Abd al-Latif, 1810; Abu Salih, 1895, p. 192, n. 2). The Livre des perles enfouies (Daressy, 1917, p. 201) also cites it, although placing it at Asyut. Al-MAQRIZI (d. 1441) knew nothing of this monastery, which seems to have disappeared before his time.

Modern authors place it at Mit Shammas, less than a mile southwest of Tamwayh, in the markaz (district) of Giza (Ramzi, 1953-1963, Vol. 2, pt. 3, p. 22). JIRJIS PHILUTHAWUS AWAD also placed it at Mit Shammas (cf. Simaykah, 1930, Vol. 2, pp. 243-45).


  • ‘Abd al-Latif. Relation de l’Egypte de ‘Abd al-Latif, ed. and trans. A. 1810. I. S. de Sacy. Paris, L’Etat des provinces is translated in an appendix.
  • 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.
  • Ramzi, M. Al-Qamus al-Jughrafi lil-Bilad al-Misriyyah, 3 vols. Cairo, 1953-1968.
  • Simaykah, M. Guide to the , Vol. 2. Cairo, 1932 (in Arabic).
  • Yaqut. Geographisches Wörterbuch, 6 vols., ed. F. Wüstenfeld. Leipzig, 1870-1873.