The archaeological remains that were discovered in Kellia represent the largest complex of Christian monasteries and hermitages known to date. The monastic site, which is situated about 18 kilometers south of modern al-Barnuji, the ancient Nitria in the western Nile Delta, was partly excavated, examined, and documented between 1965 and 1990. Unfortunately, the encroachment of the cultivation destroyed nearly the entire site. According to one of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Sts. Amoun and Antony founded Kellia.
Palladius stated that hundreds of monks were living at Kellia by the late fourth century. Kellia flourished from the fourth to the seventh century and began to decline in the eighth century. The monks’ cells extended over a territory of more than 100 square kilometers and the population of monks numbered thousands there.
Archaeologists discovered more than 1,500 hermitages and a number of churches. In addition to a bedroom, oratory, kitchen, storeroom, and a latrine, each hermitage included a well and a garden. Thus the monks were living independently and met only on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate Mass. Evagrius Ponticus was the most illustrious figure who lived in Kellia.
The documentation of this huge monastic site, including buildings, wall paintings, inscriptions, and ceramics, provided invaluable material for the study of monastic life in Egypt during its golden age. The Coptic Museum possesses a number of wall paintings and some fine examples of pottery from Kellia.