Madinat Madi


An abandoned site on the southwest edge of the Fayyum ( identical with the ancient Narmuthis), which grew out of an older temple settlement the beginnings of which reach back into the Middle Kingdom. The temple itself was built by Amenemhet III (Twelfth Dynasty) and contains numerous additions from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. A long processional way (dromos) extends in a southerly direction, and this cuts through the settlement, which spreads especially south and east of the temple.

The remains of that can still be recognized today derive from the late Roman and early Arabic periods (down to the ninth century). Ptolemaic houses are found in the neighborhood of the temple. Mud bricks were used as building materials in all periods, as was the cheap quarry stone. Horizontal wooden inserts (often even palm wood) were introduced into many walls as reinforcement.

No public have so far come to light in Madinat Madi. On the other hand, a considerable number of churches have been identified, and some of these have been cleared. In most cases, they are modest constructions. However, they deserve attention insofar as similar churches were probably contained in very many places in Egypt in late antiquity, but today are almost everywhere lost.

A characteristic example is the small church CH 84 A. It is entirely built of mud bricks. Only the columns and the door sills are of limestone. The ground plan consists of the three-aisled naos with no return aisle, but with the usual three-part sanctuary and a succession of rooms attached on the outer south side, of which only the somewhat larger east room can be entered from the interior of the church itself. The remaining rooms have their entrances on the outside. Symmetrically in front of this complex, there is on the west side a somewhat smaller entrance hall with an antechamber and staircase. Farther to the west is an evidently later court. Chronologically the church may belong to the sixth century. The columns used in it consist exclusively of spolia. In terms of style, these are like the pieces from Ahnas (Herakleopolis Magna), and may have been produced in workshops there. The church CH 84 B is substantially smaller. The area for the laity is broader than it is long, and has in its interior only four columns, which are moreover very irregularly distributed. Presumably, this church was inserted into a building already in existence. When it was cleared, numerous fragments of the woodwork (timbers and panels) were discovered. A third church, CH 85 C, is the result of the of a secular Roman building. This, too, is nearly square. It has in the interior four columns, with an in the east and on the west a small narthex. Once again all the columns consist of spolia. In its final phase this church was used as a dwelling.

Other churches still await excavation. Two of them (CH 87 D and CH 88 H) have a five-aisle naos, one (CH 88 G) even a naos of seven aisles. Nevertheless, none of these churches is particularly large, and the length is even less impressive. CH 88 G is only four bays long, CH 88 H only three. The of the latter has a horseshoe-shaped ground plan with an inner circuit of engaged pilasters and two engaged columns at the opening to the nave. The single example of a narthex in these multi-aisled churches is extant in CH 88 G.

The still relatively well-preserved church CH 87 E excavated in spring 1987 has several doors on its two long sides. The sanctuary is as usual tripartite. The openings into the central and northern rooms are flanked on both sides with columns. The third room to the south is simpler in design and served probably as a diaconicon. Farther on a fairly well-preserved little chapel with a narthex and four inner columns is situated in the southernmost region of the town. It has a multiroom sanctuary with several different units around the central altar chamber.

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