DAYR RIFAH (Asyut)
A village situated on the edge of the desert plateau about 3 miles (5 km) from DAYR DURUNKAH. This was not a monastery in the ordinary sense of the word but the use of pharaonic tombs by the hermits. A church was fitted up there, making use of a larger tomb that forms the west part of the church. It is still dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt (beginning of the thirteenth century) indicates to the south of Asyut three churches or monasteries consecrated to the Virgin Mary. The one situated at Rifah and Durunkah is probably the church of Dayr Durunkah. The other two named are those of Azilun and Abu Harith. We do not know where they were. One of these dayrs could be Dayr Rifah.
The historian al-MAQRIZI (d. 1441) does not seem to cite this dayr but places more to the south of the monastery of Severus that of Saint Theodore, the slayer of dragons. There is in this dayr, in addition to the principal church of the Virgin Mary, a secondary church dedicated to Saint Theodorus.
A description of the places may be read in M. Jullien (1901, pp. 210-12). A plan of the whole and a tomb plan will be found in M. Pillet (1912, pp. 62, 72). S. Clarke has given a plan of the church of the Virgin Mary (1912, pp. 176-77), but not of the Church of Saint Theodorus (tomb no. 3 in Pillet’s plan).
Some lintels of the doors deriving from other Christian buildings have been reused, among others, and one of them still mentions the name of the neighboring monastery of Severus (Griffith, 1889, pl. 17-18); Petrie (1909, Vol. 1, pl. 52) has also published a wooden lintel with names of a scribe in Coptic. A fine lintel of sculptured stone from the entrance door of the church of the Virgin Mary is reproduced in part by Martin (1966, pl. 10). A Greek graffito in front of the church of Saint Theodorus is unfortunately unpublished.
- Clarke, S. The Christian Antiquities in the Nile Valley. London, 1912.
- Griffith, F. L. The Inscriptions of Siut and Der Rifeh. London, 1889.
- Jullien, M. “A travers les ruines de la Haute Egypte à la recherche de la grotte de l’abbé Jean.” Etudes 88 (1901):205-217.
- Martin, M. Laures et ermitages du désert d’Egypte. Mélanges de l’Universite de St. Joseph 42. (1966):183-98.
- Petrie, W. M. Flinders. Memphis I. London, 1909.
- Pillet, M. Structure et décoration architectonique de la nécropole antique de Deir Rifeh. Mélanges Maspero 1. Mémoires de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 66. Cairo, 1912.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.