MONASTERIES IN THE DAQAHLIYYAH PROVINCE
This province occupies the northern part of the Delta between the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the so-called Damietta Branch of the Nile. The monastic settlements attested in this region by literary evidence are fairly numerous. We distinguish them by the actual markaz (district) in which they were situated.
Nawasa and al-Dayr (Markaz of Aja)
The village of Nawasa is situated near the Nile to the north of Mit Samannud. The Life of the Patriarch CHRISTODOULOS (1047-1077) mentions a recluse of saintly fame named Shenuti who lived there in a cell toward the end of this patriarch’s reign. This village, which still exists, is indicated as the seat of a bishopric under the following patriarch, CYRIL II. A map prepared by Guest (1912, opposite p. 980) shows its medieval situation.
A village still bears the name of al-Dayr. In A.H. 933/A.D. 1526-1527, it was called Kafr al-Dayr because, writes Ramzi, there was a Christian convent there.
Tmuis (Markaz of al-Sinbillawayn)
According to John CASSIAN (Collationes 14.4 and 16.1), there was in the neighborhood of Tmuis (today near Timay al-Amdid, northeast of al-Sinbillawayn), a large cenobium (Amélineau, 1893, pp. 500-501; Maspero and Wiet, 1919, pp. 59-60).
Tambuq (Markaz of al-Mansurah)
When Daniel, the famous superior of Scetis, refused to subscribe to the Tome of Pope LEO, which the Emperor JUSTINIAN wanted to impose on the Egyptian monks, he fled with a disciple to Tambuq and there built a small monastery, to the west of the village, where he lived until Justinian’s death (565). When the barbarians invaded Scetis at the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century, Daniel returned to Tambuq, where he died and was buried (Guidi, 1900, pp. 562-64).
H. G. EVELYN-WHITE doubts the authenticity of the episode of the Tome of Leo at Scetis, but appears to admit Daniel’s exile and death at Tambuq (1932, pp. 246-50). Cauwenbergh considers this event authentic; it is indeed in conformity with what is known of Justinian’s religious policy from 535 onward (1914, pp. 25, 28, 85). Ramzi thinks that it is the village known today as al-Danabiq.
Panephysis, Heracleopolis Parva, Tunah, and Barbiyyah
(Markaz of al-Manzalah)
The town of Panephysis may have been situated on the site of the present-day al-Manzalah, or it may have been farther north, if we are to believe John Cassian’s report that it was submerged by the rising of the waters of Lake al-Manzalah following an earthquake (Collationes 7.26 and 11.3). He locates there a cenobium of more than a hundred brothers and a convent of virgins; in the neighborhood, there were many anchorites. The site is mentioned several times in the APOPHTHEGMATA PATRUM.
Heracleopolis Parva was the ancient Sethron, situated, no doubt, farther east than Panephysis before the Suez Canal was built. It is also referred to in the Apophthegmata Patrum as a place inhabited by anchorites.
In Lake al-Manzalah, the island of Tunah is mentioned by ABU AL-MAKARIM, who locates there a monastery dedicated to Saint Pachomius belonging to the Melchites. It was destroyed by the Ghuzz in 1168. The date given by Abu al-Makarim is that of Shirkuh’s expedition against Egypt (Lane-Poole, 1925, p. 179ff.; see also Amélineau, 1893, pp. 502-503).
In his list of the churches and monasteries of the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, F. ‘Awad (1932, p. 218) indicates between Tinnis and Damietta, although it had been destroyed, a monastery of the Trinity belonging to the Melchites, in a place which he writes as Bazqiyyah. The source of this information is without any doubt the work of Abu al-Makarim, but the publisher (1984, p. 134) has printed Barbiyyah, without specifying the location.
Monastery of Pamin (Markaz of Dikirnis)
Abu al-Makarim indicates in the neighborhood of the small town of Ashmun Tanah (today called Ashmun al-Rumman) a monastery where Pamin the Confessor lived. The author has perhaps confused him with the saint of the same name who was a monk near al- Ashmunayn in Middle Egypt.
Monastery of Saint George at Shata (Markaz of Fariskur)
Abu al-Makarim mentions at Shata a large monastery and a church with the name of Saint George; the latter was destroyed by the Muslims and transformed into a mosque because the Franks had landed there at the time of Salah al-Din’s victory in 1177. On Guest’s map (1912, opposite p. 980), Shata is to the east of Damietta and very near the town.
Monastery of Jeremiah (Governorate of Damietta)
A monastery of Jeremiah (Dayr Apa Jeremiah) is situated by Abu al-Makarim in the Island of Damietta. Its lofty buildings could be seen from Damietta, but during the reign of the Fatimids, they were lowered because of the advanced position of this convent, and the provisions that were kept there for fear of a siege were removed to Damietta.
The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS notes that this convent belonged to the Melchites and was one parasang (between 3 and 3½ miles) from Damietta, to the north, on the west bank. On 9 May 1211, the Franks landed there in force to attack Damietta. No doubt it was destroyed at the same time as old Damietta.
- Amélineau, E. La géographie de l’Egypte a l’époque copte. Paris, 1893.
- Cauwenbergh, P. van. Etude sur les moines d’Egypte. Paris and Louvain, 1914.
- Evelyn-White, H. G. The History of the Monasteries of Nitria and of Scetis. New York, 1932.
- Guest, R. “The Delta in the Middle Ages.” Journal of the Royal and Asiatic Society (1912):941-80.
- Guidi, I. “Vie et récits de l’abbé Daniel de Scété.” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 5 (1900):535-64; 6 (1901):51-53.
- Lane-Poole, S. History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1925. Maspero, J., and G. Wiet. Matériaux pour servir à la géographie de l’Egypte. Mémoires publiés par les membres de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 36. Cairo, 1919.
- Muhammad Ramzi. Al-Qamus al-Jughrafi lil-Bilad al Misriyyah, 2 vols. in 5 pts. Cairo, 1953-1963.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.