Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/web2cowi/public_html/wp-content/themes/astra/inc/class-astra-dynamic-css.php on line 3458
Dayr Apa Phoibammon - Coptic Wiki



The monastery of is situated between MADINAT HABU and Armant, at the end of a narrow wadi ending in a cliff about 80 feet (25 m) high. It was excavated in 1947 and 1948 by Charles Bachatly, secretary-general of the SOCIETY OF COPTIC ARCHAEOLOGY. Graffiti on the cliff face confirm that the monastery was dedicated to Saint Phoibammon, though to which of the four known saints of that name is uncertain.

It is probably the soldier saint commemorated on 1 Ba’unah, concerning whom there exists a homily in Arabic. Over 200 graffiti in Greek and Coptic were found on the site but no manuscripts and few ostraca.

One of the monks of this monastery, Abraham, became (about 590) bishop of Hermonthis. Because of the remote position of the monastery and the wish of DAMIAN, he left this monastery and founded another monastery of near the town of Djeme in the former Temple of Hatshepsut (Dayr al-Bahri). The existence of this monastery was known from documents found at different sites of the Theban mountain, in particular at Dayr al- Bahri and DAYR AL-BAKHIT, where manuscripts and ostraca originating from the monastery of Phoibammon were found.

The monastery excavated by Bachatly was probably voluntarily abandoned in the eighth century, presumably because it was feared that the whole cliff against which the monastery was built might crumble. In a cave on the rocky terrace above the monastery, fifteen inscriptions were found, three of which bear the name of Apa Pisenthius.


  • Bachatly, C. Le Monastère de Phoebammon dans la Thébaïde. Cairo, 1982.
  • Ghali, M. Note sur la découverte du monastère de Phoebammon dans la montagne thébaine. Cairo, 1948.
  • Khater, A. and O. H. E. Burmester. L’Archéologie du site. Cairo, 1981.
  • Krause, M. “Zwei -Kloster in Theben-West.” Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts. Abteilung Kairo 37 (1981):261-66.
  • . “Die Beziehungen zwischen den beiden Phoi-bammon- Klöstern auf dem thebanischen Westufer.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 27 (1985).
  • Remondon, R.; Y. ‘Abd al-Masih; W. C. Tilland; and O. H. E. Burmester. Le monastère de Phoebammon dans la Thébaïde, Vol. 2, Graffiti, inscriptions et ostraca. Cairo, 1965.
  • Tackholm, V.; E. A. M. Greiss; A. K. el-Duweini; and Z. Iskander. Identifications botaniques, zoologiques et chimiques. Cairo, 1961.


Dayr Apa in Dayr al-Bahri was erected on the uppermost platform of the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and over the northwestern part of the middle platform, which during the Coptic period was buried under debris and sand as high as the level of pavement of the upper portico. The whole monastic building was disassembled by A. Mariette and E. Naville in the second half of the nineteenth century in an effort to uncover the temple, and all monastic relics were removed without documentation.

Today, to regain information on the site of the monastery, we have to consult archival descriptions from travelers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of extreme value are the sketches, plans, and surveys in the British Library made by R. Hay during his travels to Egypt (1824-1838). Very important also are Coptic graffiti and drawings preserved on the walls of the temple.

Dayr Apa Phoibammon, one of the largest monastic complexes in Upper Egypt, made partial use of the pharaonic situated on the upper platform of the temple. These were from the south vestibule of the royal chapels of Hatshepsut and Tothmoses, the little southwestern room, the main sanctuary (except for the Ptolomaic chapel), and the northwestern of Amon-Re.

Obviously the central court was also used, and relics of a few separate were discovered there. The 26-foot tower, located in the southeastern corner of the court, was best preserved.

The northern part of the eastern portico on the third platform and northwestern section of the second platform were occupied by a huge brick construction, preserved up to the second floor until the middle of the nineteenth century. The premises of Dayr Apa extended as well throughout the embankment covering the court with the sun altar in the northern part of the upper platform where a building with a central dome was recorded by R. Hay (B. L. Mss, no 135), R. Lepsius, and the French Expedition. On the southeastern part of the middle platform, a building separated from the monastic complex was also recorded by Hays.

Little can be told about the functional use of particular monastic premises. Undoubtedly, the Hatshepsut functioned as the monastic church. Very likely in the earlier days of the monastery the main sanctuary of the temple served a similar function, with buildings on the middle platform being used most probably as cells by monks.

The function of the buildings on the upper platform is unclear except for the tower. The building over the court with the sun altar was used most probably as a monastic archive, and E. Naville found there a few hundred Coptic ostraca. The vestibule of the royal chapels in the last years of the monastery’s existence was used as a cemetery, and E. Naville uncovered there several Coptic mummies.

The ostraca uncovered during the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Fund led by Naville at Dayr al-Bahri on Hatshepsut Temple and at Mentuhotep Temple (1894-1895) are now in the British Museum and in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. They were partly published by W. E. Crum (1902) and R. H. Hall (1905). Similar documents were found by H. E. Winlock (1926, Vol. 1, p. 20) during the excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Expedition, and can now be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and in the collection of Columbia University, New York.

Most probably the wooden box containing connected with Dayr Apa Phoibammon (testaments of abbots, deeds, and legal documents) accidently uncovered during the winter of 1854-1855, was also found in the ruins of the monastic building at Dayr al- Bahri. All these documents, including the group of the so-called Djeme papyri, edited by Crum and G. Steindorff (1912, Vol. 1 [text and indexes]; repr. Leipzig, 1971), were kept in the of Dayr Apa Phoibammon. It is very likely that another Djeme papyrus, concerning private affairs, had been deposited in the monastery.

The testament of Apa Jakob, abbot of the monastery (late seventh century), gives evidence that at this post he was preceded by bishop Abraham, priest Victor, and priest Petros. Therefore, bishop Abraham (590-620) was apparently the first abbot and founder of Dayr Apa at Dayr al-Bahri. The foundation of the monastery is recorded as well in Koptische Rechtsurkunden des achten Jahrhunderts aus Djeme 105 (Steinwenter, 1935, pp. 380-85) dated to the end of the sixth century.

In this document the whole village (most probably Djeme) is granted the title of ownership of the estate (most probably at Dayr al-Bahri) to Dayr Apa on which the monastic building could be erected. The same fact is reported also in Coptic Ostraca Ad. 59 (Crum, 1902).

Dayr Apa flourished during the seventh and first half of the eighth centuries. The last documents connected with this monastery belong to the end of the eighth century. At that time, during the revolt in Upper Egypt against Abbasid power, the monastery undoubtedly was deserted. Dayr al-Bahri was visited by several people, including bishops, during the tenth and eleventh centuries, as we know from Coptic graffiti preserved inside the Hatshepsut chapel.


  • Crum, W. E. Coptic Ostraca. London, 1902.
  • Crum, W. E., and G. Steindorff. Koptische Rechtsurkunden des Achten Jahrhunderts aus Djeme (Theben). Leipzig, 1912.
  • Godlewski, W. “Remarques sur la création du monastère de St. Phoebammon    à    Deir    el    Bahari.”    Africana    Bulletin    31 (1982):107-113.
  • . “The Late Roman in Deir el Bahari.” Graeco- Coptica 48 (1984):111-19.
  • . Deir el Bahari V. Le monastère de St. Phoebammon. Warsaw, 1986.
  • Hall, R. H. Coptic and Greek Texts of the Christian Period. London, 1905.
  • Krause, M. “Apa von Hermonthis. Ein oberägyptischer Bischof um 600.” Ph.D. diss. Berlin, 1956.
  • . “Die Testamente der Äbte des -Kloster in Theben.” Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts—Abteilung Kairo 37 (1981):261-66.
  • . “Die ägyptischen Klöster. Bemerkungen zu den Klöstern in Theben-West und den Apollon- Klöstern.” Proceedings of the Third International Coptic in , 20-25 August, 1984. Warsaw, 1984.
  • Naville, E. “The Excavations at Deir el Bahari During the Winter, 1894-5.” Archaeological Report (1894-1895):33-37.
  • Steinwenter, A. “Zur Edition der koptischen Rechtsurkunden aus Djeme.” Orientalia n.s. 4 (1935):377-85.
  • Till, W. C. Datierung und Prosopographie der koptischen Urkunden aus Theben. Vienna, 1962.
  • . Die koptischen Rechtsurkunden aus Theben. Vienna, 1964. Winlock, H. E., and W. E. Crum. The Monastery of Epiphanius at , 2 vols. New York, 1926.