KHIZANAH (Arabic)

A storeroom or warehouse. In Egyptian monastery architecture it also has the meaning of a hiding place. In some sources the same hiding place is called in modern Arabic makhba’. They are to be found in almost all monasteries, and in part probably also served as archives. Their main function was, however, as places where objects of value such as liturgical utensils could be left in case of danger, while the inhabitants of the monastery took flight.

Accordingly they are usually provided with a secret entrance. In the church of the monastery of Shenute at Suhaj (White Monastery) three have so far been identified, under the two side chambers of the east and under the southern (westward) ascent of the north staircase, one of which is mentioned by Abu al- Makarim. In each case the secret entrance is located in a wall niche, the bottom ledge of which consisted of a thick stone slab and could be moved sideways in the stonework leaving the way down open.

The khizanah in the north wall of the church of Sitt Maryam at DAYR AL-SURYAN (Grossmann, 1982, p. 206) can be entered through the cover of one of the wall niches in the northern sanctuary. Several khizanahs, with sometimes very complicated entrances, were found in some of the monks’ dwellings in the great laura of KELLIA. They seem to have been added by some of the hermits for use when they had to go on a journey, but this was not the rule. Other monks left everything accessible. Finally in the and Maronite churches khizanah means sacristy (Arabic, sakristiyya) as well as to keep the remains of the communion (Graf, 1954, p. 42).

  • Graf, G. Verzeichnis arabischer Kirchlicher Termini. Louvain, 1954.
  • Grossmann, P. Mittelalterliche Langhauskuppel-Kirchen und verwandte Typen in Oberägypten. Glückstadt, 1982.
  • Kasser, R., et al. “Survey archéologique des Kellia (Basse-Égypte).” de la campagne 1981. Louvain, 1981.

GROSSMANN