Dayr Al-Shuhada’ (Akhmim)

DAYR AL-SHUHADA’ (Akhmim)

History

The Monastery of the Martyrs is situated on a slight elevation in the desert, about half a mile north of al-Hawawish, which is itself about 4 miles (6 km) east of Akhmim. It is neighbor to two other monasteries, DAYR AL-MALAK MIKHA’IL and DAYR AL-‘ADHRA’ (Monastery of the Virgin).

Several travelers mentioned it (Pococke; Granger). The fifteenth-century historian AL-MAQRIZI made it very clear that the so-called Church of the Savior now bearing the name of the Martyrs is in the interior of Akhmim. This cannot, therefore, be the Monastery of the Martyrs.

  • Granger, N. Relation du voyage fait en l’année 1730. Paris, 1745.
  • Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed., 1977.
  • Pococke, R. A Description of the East and Some Other Countries. London, 1745.
  • Saint-Genis, A. B. “Notice sur les restes de l’ancienne ville de Chemnis ou Panopolis, aujourdhui Akhmym, et ses environs.” In Description de l’Egypte, Antiquités, Vol. 4, ed. E. F. Jomard. Paris, 1821.

RENÉ-GEORGES COQUIN

MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.

Architecture

This monastery is also known as Dayr al-Wustani. A church with this dedication is mentioned by al-Maqrizi in the fifteenth century. Its connection with the martyrs, its position near an early Coptic cemetery, and the large amounts of late Roman pottery found by its walls suggest that this building may be on the site of an early monastery of which there are now no visible remains.

There is a large courtyard containing many tombs, a chamber with two small courts south of the entrance, a small room for water jugs, and several small rooms south of the church. The first phase of the church building has been assigned by P. Grossmann (1982, pp. 202- 203) to his first group of hall churches. It was a square structure.

On the east was a central curved sanctuary with five niches, and two rooms on either side. West of them were two rows of two bays each, divided by sidewalls. Additional units were later added at the north and south to create a broad, shallow structure similar to the neighboring monasteries. The interior brickwork may have been painted in red and black patterns with white divisions, sometimes covering the mortar joins, at that time.

  • Grossmann, P. und verwandte Typen in Oberägypten, pp. 202-203. Glückstadt, 1982.
  • Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965. Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, Vol. 2, pp. 808-810. Wiesbaden, 1984.

SHELA MCNALLY