MONASTERIES OF THE FAYYUM
In the notice about the patriarch KHA’IL I (744-767), the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS indicates that there were then thirty-five monasteries in the Fayyum. ABU SALIH THE ARMENIAN repeats the same information, which he seems to relate to the same period; he names or describes only eight of them. Al-Nabulsi cites thirteen. A certain number of these monasteries still exist today: DAYR ABU ISHAQ (or Dayr al-Hammam), DAYR ABU LIFAH, DAYR AL-AZAB, DAYR AL-MALAK GHUBRIYAL (Naqlun), DAYR ANBA SAMU’IL OF QALAMUN, DAYR MAR JIRJIS OF SIDMANT, and some hermitages in the Wadi al-Rayyan. Monasteries that have disappeared are well enough known from various documents: DAYR ABIRUN, the two DAYR AL-‘ADHRA’ and DAYR AL- IKHWAH at Sayalah, the monastery of al-Hamuli, the scriptoria of TUTUN.
For many others, on the contrary, we have no more than sporadic mention of their existence, here and there among the writers Abu Salih and al-Nabulsi and from other sources.
Abu Salih mentions two monasteries at Aflah al-Zaytun, in the Fayyum: one named after a Saint Theodorus the Martyr on the al- Manha canal (i.e., the Bahr Yusuf, which rules out the place of the same name al-Zaytun to the north of Bani Suef) and the other called that of the Apostles.
He mentions another monastery, Dayr al-Salib, in the district of Fanu, to the north of Madinat al-Fayyum, also attested, although without indication of the name, by al-Nabulsi, who places it to the west of the town (Salmon, 1901, p. 54).
Al-Nabulsi mentions the following monasteries, most often only indicating the nearest town or village and the direction in which the monastery is situated in relation to them: Dayr Anba Shinudah, south of Minshat Awlad ‘Arafah (today Ma‘sarat ‘Arafah), southwest of Madinat al-Fayyum (Salmon, 1901, p. 66); Dayr al-‘Amil, south of al-‘Idwah, northeast of Madinat al-Fayyum (Salmon, 1901, p. 46); Dayr Bamwiyyah, east of the town of the same name, in the north of the Fayyum near Sanhur (Salmon, 1901, p. 56); Dayr Dimushiyyah, south of the town of this name, south of Madinat al- Fayyum (Salmon, 1901, p. 64; Muhammad Ramzi thinks that this monastery is the same as Dayr al-‘Azab, Vol. 1, p. 253; Vol. 2, pt. 3, p. 95); Dayr Dhat al-Safa, south of this borough; Dayr Disya, north of the town (Salmon, 1901, p. 62); and Dayr Sannuris, west of the town, northwest of Madinat al-Fayyum (Salmon, 1901, p. 51).
Seven monasteries are mentioned in other sources. Dayr Abu Ja‘ran is mentioned only by al Tuhfah al-Saniyyah (trans. Sacy, 1810, p. 682, no. 58). According to M. Ramzi, it was about 5.5 miles (9 km) west of Itsa (Vol. 1, p. 260). Dayr al-‘Ajamiyyin is indicated in the Book of the Hidden Pearls (Daressy, 1917, p. 206), near the village of this name in the north of the Fayyum, in the district of Ibshaway. Dayr al-Banat is also mentioned by the Book of the Hidden Pearls, but the author has perhaps confused it with the Qasr al-Banat to the southwest of Lake Qarun (Daressy, 1917, p. 200). Under the Greek name Labla, several Greek papyri of the sixth century mention two monasteries “in the mountain called Labla” (Barison, 1938, pp. 69-72; the reader will find in this nomenclature other references to several monasteries in the Fayyum).
At Madinat Ghuran, west of Madinat Madi, excavations have brought to light a small Coptic monastery backing on to a small Ptolemaic temple (Jouguet, 1901, p. 305). Dayr Shalla is mentioned at the same time as Dayr al-Naqlun (Dayr al-Malak Ghubriyal) in a deed of gift of the tenth century (Abbott, 1937, pp. 19-20). It should not be very distant from the latter: al-Maqrizi speaks of this locality, overhung by the mountain of Naqlun (al-Khitat, Vol. 2, p. 505). Dayr al-Zakawah is mentioned only as ruins in the Description de l’Egypt (Vol. 16, p. 52; atlas, fol. 19) southeast of Madinat al-Gharaq (south of the Fayyum).
- Abbott, N. The Monasteries of the Fayyum. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 16. Chicago, 1937.
- Amélineau, E. La Géographie de l’Egypte à l’époque copte. Paris, 1893.
- Baghdadi, Abd al-Latif ibn Yusuf al-. Al-Tuhfah al-Saniyyah (état des provinces et des villages de l’Egypte: 715 H/1315 A.D.). Trans. Silvestre de Sacy in Relation de l’Egypte par ‘Abd-Allatif. Paris, 1810.
- Barison, Paola. “Ricerche sui monasteri dell Egitto bizantino ed arabo secondo i documenti dei papiri greci.” Aegyptus 18 (1938):29-148.
- Daressy, G. “Indicateur topographique du “”Livre des perles enfouies et du mystère précieux.'” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 13 (1917):175-230; 14 (1918):1-32.
- Jouguet, P. “Fouilles du Fayoum. Rapport sur les fouilles de Medinet-Madi et Medinet Ghoran.” Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 25 (1901):379-411.
- Muhammad Ramzi. Al-Qamus al-Jughrafi lil-Bilad al Misriyyah (geographical dictionary of Egyptian towns), 2 vols. in 5 pts. Cairo 1953-1954, 1963.
- Salmon, G. “Répertoire géographique de la Province du Fayyoum d’après le Kitab al-Fayyoum d’an-Naboulsi.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 1 (1901):29-77.