Today the church of the Holy Virgin near the village called Dayr Durunkah, to distinguish it from the more important village called Durunkah. It is situated about 6 miles (10 km) southwest of ASYUT on the edge of the mountain in the quarries and tombs.
ABU SALIH THE ARMENIAN (beginning of the thirteenth century) mentions a church in the region of Durunkah and three monasteries (pp. 250-51) dedicated to the Holy Virgin: that of Qarfunah, near the Monastery of Saint Severus, it seems, and those of Azilun and Abu Harith.
Al-MAQRIZI (d. 1441) devotes a fairly long notice to the monasteries of the region of Durunkah, and mentions three that bore the name of the Holy Virgin: Qarfunah, Saint Severus, and Isaac (1853, Vol. 2, p. 506). The one where the church is still standing perhaps corresponds to the monastery that Abu Salih and al-Maqrizi call Qarfunah. Al-Maqrizi explains that the name comes from the Greek grafon and means “scribe” because this monastery had a famous scriptorium for the copying of manuscripts. In fact, there exists a manuscript from the library of Dayr al-Abyad that was written there, as its colophon shows (van Lantschoot, 1929, no. 69, fasc. 2, p. 47). A very archaic funerary stela probably comes from this monastery. In fact, it carries the very name, “monastery of the scribes” (Elanskaya, 1975-1976, pp. 221-22). This would indicate that the monastery is very old.
The inscriptions and graffiti have been published by the following authors: F. L. Griffith (1889, pl. 19); Ahmad Kamal (1916); A. J. Gayet (1900, pp. 53ff.; Gayet speaks of the textiles found in the cemetery); and G. Maspero (1893, p. 208). The travelers J. VANSLEB (1677, pp. 364, 394-95; Eng. ed., 1678, pp. 218, 227) and M. JULLIEN (1901, p. 213) have described the site. The present state is given by O. Meinardus (1965, p. 384; 1977, pp. 394-95).
Today, Dayr Durunkah is a place of pilgrimage, the mawlid (birthday) of which is held from 1 to 16 Misra (Muyser, 1979, pp. 52-53). The church was reconstructed in 1955. A good description of the ancient state is given by S. Clarke (1912, p. 175).
- Ahmad Kamal. “Fouilles a Deir Dronka et a Assuit.” Annales du Service des antiquites de l’Egypte 16 (1916):64-66.
- Clarke, S. The Christian Antiquities in the Nile Valley. London, 1912.
- Elanskaya, A. J. “Quelques steles coptes des musees de Leningrad et de Moscou.” Orientalis Lovaniensia Periodica 6/7 (1975-1976):215-22.
- Gayet, A. J. Le Costume en Egypte du Ille au Xllle siecle. Paris, 1900.
- Griffith, F. L. The Inscriptions of Siut and Der Rifeh. London, 1889.
- Jullien, M. “A travers les ruines de la Haute Egypte a la recherche de la grotte de l’abbe Jean.” Etudes 88 (1901):205-217.
- Lantschoot, A. van. Recueil des colophons des manuscrits chretiens d’Egypte. Bibliotheque du Museon 1. Louvain, 1929.
- Maspero, G. Etudes de mythologie et d’archeologie egyptienne, Vol. 1. Paris, 1893.
- Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed., Cairo, 1977.
- Vansleb, J. M. Nouvelle relation en forme de journal d’un voyage fait en Egypte en 1672 et 1673. Paris, 1677. Translated as The Present State of Egypt. London, 1678.
RENE-GEORGES COQUIN MAURICE MARTIN, S. J.