Dayr Harmina (Asyut)


A monastery in the desert at the foot of the mountain that contains the underground construction of the ancient Qaw, about a mile (1.5 km) northwest of the village of ‘Izbat al-Aqbat (farm of the Copts).

The Life of Saint Harmina is given in summary form by the recension from Upper Egypt of the SYNAXARION of the Copts for 2 Kiyahk. The Life is known in greater detail from several Arabic manuscripts (e.g., National Library, Paris, 148; Troupeau, 1972, Vol. 1, p. 114). One of them, in the Coptic Museum, Cairo (Arabic, History 475), has been edited and translated by Muyser (1943, pp. 199-236). The monastery is not further attested before the fifteenth century.

The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt makes mention only of a church in Harmina’s name near al-Bahnasa, his birthplace. Evetts, the editor, wrongly translates the name as “Armenius” (p. 211). The fifteenth-century historian Al-MAQRIZI mentions a Dayr Harmina to the north of Qaw al-Kharab, which corresponds to the present Dayr al-Nasara. The church of the neighboring village called ‘Izbat al- is dedicated to Anba Harmina (Clarke, 1912, p. 211, no. 22).

An enclosure wall of unbaked bricks about 130 by 195 feet (about 40 by 60 m) surrounds the ruins, where one can distinguish a modern tomb, a chapel to the south, and a deep well that is mentioned in the saint’s Life. The church is of Somers CLARKE’s “type c” (1912). It presents an ancient part to the south and a more recent addition on the north. The first part includes the sanctuary with three altars and two parallel bays of joists. They are roofed by twelve deep and perforated cupolas. The iconostasis is made of black and red bricks, alternating with white stones. To the right of the entrance is a tomb under an arch.

A little to the south of the monastery on the site of the ancient Qaw, excavations have yielded some monastic stelae, on which are invoked the traditional saints of Bawit, Shenute, Moses, et cetera (Brunton, 1930, Vol. 3, pp. 30, 33, 34; Vol. 1, pls. 1, 7; the maps will be found useful for locating the site).


  • Brunton, G. Qau and , Vol. 3. London, 1930.
  • Clarke, S. in the Valley. London, 1912. Muyser, J. “Ermite pérégrinant et pèlerin infatigable.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 9 (1943):159-236.
  • Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Vol. 1. Paris, 1972.