DAYR HOR (Siryaqus)

This monastery, probably situated near the town of Siryaqus, in the province of al-Qalyubyyah, about 12 miles (20 km) north of Cairo, is described by al-Shabushti (end of tenth or beginning of eleventh century) as populated by monks. Its festivals attracted a great number of people. The author relates the medicinal practice employed in this monastery for the cure of scrofula.

When an invalid presented himself, the superior brought a pig that licked the affected parts without touching the healthy, then spread over these affected areas the ashes of a pig previously used for a similar operation, and also oil from the church lamp. The invalid was thus healed. The pig that had devoured the scrofula was killed and burned, and its ashes preserved for the treatment of another invalid. This cannot be earlier than the Arab period. The words “pigs” and “scrofula” are the same in Arabic.

This notice is reproduced more or less literally by the medieval authors Yaqut, al-Qazwini, and al-‘Umari (see the references given by Atiya, 1939, pp. 8-9). It may be noted that al-Umar (d. 1348) adds “that is so until now” (Atiya, 1939, p. 22, n. 6). Al-Maqrizi also reproduced this passage from al-Shabushti, but speaks of it in the past tense: “The monastery of Siryaqus, this monastery was also called that of Abu Hur . . .”; the final phrase of al-‘Umari (“there is at this monastery a great flow of those who from this illness”) becomes “there was . . . of those who suffered.” This seems to indicate that in his time (fifteenth century) the monastery had already disappeared.

It is not certain to which saint this monastery was dedicated, though it was probably the martyr Hor, a native of Siryaqus who was executed at and whose feast day is 12 Abib (see also Graf, 1944, Vol. 1, p. 534).

[See also: Pilgrimages.]

  • Atiya, A. S. “Some Egyptian Monasteries According to the Unpublished Ms. of al-Shabushti’s “ al-diyarat.'” d’archéologie copte, Cairo. Bulletin (1939):1-28.
  • Viaud, G. Magie et coutumes populaires les coptes d’Egypte, pp. 59, 92. Sisteron, 1978.

RENÉ- COQUIN