DAYR MAR MINA (Gharbiyyah)
The mention of a hermitage of recluses at Ibyar in the Gharbiyyah Province appears for the first time in A.D. 1118 when Mercurius, a recluse located there, was proposed for election to the bishopric of Misr (Old Cairo). In 1216, after the death of the Patriarch JOHN VI, an unnamed recluse from Ibyar was proposed as his successor. In 1221, the sultan al-Malik al- Kamil ibn ‘Adil was cured by a recluse from Ibyar and therefore wanted to have him elected patriarch; the recluse refused. In 1223, during a long vacancy of the patriarchal seat, a recluse (possibly the same) from Ibyar was again proposed for election.
Abu al-Makarim (1177-1204) places Ibyar in the Jazirat Bani Nasr, which at that time was a province to the southwest of the Delta, bounded in the west by the Rosetta branch of the Nile and in the east by the canal called al-Bajuriyyah. Ibyar was its principal town (Maspero and Wiet, 1919, p. 3). Abu al-Makarim identifies it with old Niqyus, which is inaccurate (Guest, 1912, p. 959 and map), since Niqyus is situated by the historians in the south of the province of Jazirat Bani Nasr, while Ibyar was in the north. Abu al-Makarim estimates that there were several churches in the town, and locates in the northern part of its district a church dedicated to Saint Menas, including a hermitage of recluses, surrounded by a wall.
In the eighteenth century, C. Sicard mentioned “the monastery of Saint Mennas” outside the town which he sites “two short leagues north east of Cafre Zaiat on the Nile” (1982, Vol. 3, p. 110).
The monastery still exists under the name of Dayr Mar Mina al- Habis (Monastery of Saint Menas the Recluse). This designation may perpetuate the name of a recluse called Menas, or it may confuse Ibyar with Niqyus, the birthplace of the great martyr according to the Encomium of the Patriarch JOHN III (Drescher, 1946, p. 131) and the SYNAXARION for 15 Hatur. The church is still famous for an annual pilgrimage on 15 Ba’unah, the date of the discovery of the relics of Saint Menas at Maryut, which might indicate that the saint traditionally venerated at Ibyar is not a local saint, but the martyr of Maryut (Muyser and Viaud, 1982, pp. 29-30).
- Drescher, J. Apa Mena (textes et documents). Cairo, 1946.
- Guest, R. “The Delta in the Middle Ages.” Journal of the Royal and Asiatic Society (1912):941-80.
- Maspero, J., and G. Wiet. Matériaux pour servir à la géographie de l’Egypte. Mémoires de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 36. Cairo, 1919.
- Muyser, J., and G. Viaud. Les Pèlerinages coptes en Egypte. Bibliothèque d’études coptes 15. Cairo, 1979.
- Sicard, C. Oeuvres, 3 vols., ed. M. Martin. Bibliothèque d’Etudes 85. Cairo, 1982.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.