The Pilgrimage Center of St. Demiana Monastery (BILQAS)
The pilgrimage center of st. Demiana MONASTERY is situated near the town of Bilqas, which lies in the northeast region of the Nile Delta about 45 kilometers from the city of al-Mansura. A Monastery of Jimyana (Demiana) is mentioned by the historian al-Maqrizi (d. 1442), although the expansion of the cult of St. Demiana is traced to the sixteenth century. St. Demiana is one of the most venerated female saints in Egypt.
She was the only daughter of Marcus, governor of the district of Parallus and Za’faran in the northern Delta. When she heard that her father had accepted to offer incense and libation to the idols of Emperor Diocletian (284-305), she rebuked him. She was tortured with her forty virgin companions over several days and they were martyred. Today, the convent of St. Demiana is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Egypt.
Each year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel to the site on January 20 (the commemoration of the martyrdom of St. Demiana) and on May 21 (the commemoration of the consecration of her church).
The monastery contains several churches. The oldest church features four domed bays. The eastern bay serves as a sanctuary in which an earlier altar of fired bricks was discovered in 1974. The church dates from the Ottoman period, very possibly from the sixteenth century. The other churches are modem. Of special interest is the shrine of St. Demiana, which was built in the last century. It was constructed as a four-pillar church with a high dome. On the occasion of the two-thousand-year celebration of the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt in 2000, the shrine of St. Demiana was completely renovated. It is worthy of note that a number of nuns of St. Demiana Monastery produce beautiful icons that decorate many Coptic churches in Egypt and abroad.