The Church and Monastery of the Baptist near the River Jordan

Coptic pilgrims who go to the Holy Land visit the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptized. C. L. Irby, who visited the Holy Land in 1818, said that he saw Christians at the River Jordan numbering around five thousand, including Greeks, Copts, and Ethiopians (1868, p. 100).

This holy spot not only attracts pilgrims but also monks and hermits who dedicate their lives to worship in the Jordanian desert. One of the first of these hermits was Saint Mary the Egyptian, who spent forty years thereafter her pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher in 382.

As time went on some of the Coptic monks who went to the Holy Land stayed to worship in the desert. Among those who went there at the beginning of the twentieth century were al- Antuni and the archpriest Philubbus al-Maqari.

The Copts have a monastery by the Jordan called after the Baptist. Here Anba Theophilos, of the see of Jerusalem from 1935 to 1945, laid the foundation stone of the Church of Saint the Baptist, but this church is still not completed. Anba Yacobos, archbishop from 1946 to 1956, added some rooms to the monastery, the largest of which is used as a church. The other rooms are for the residence of Coptic pilgrims visiting the River Jordan.

Next to the monastery is some land which the patriarchate in Jerusalem leased from the government and which is used for the growing of vegetables, fruit, and palm and trees.

In order to secure the comfort of pilgrims visiting the monastery, the patriarchate in Jerusalem planted trees on the banks of the River Jordan and provided seating for five hundred people.

The patriarchate conducts annual prayers and celebrations on the feast of Baramun and Epiphany at the monastery. Usually on this occasion a big procession takes place, with the clergy and deacons preceded by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts playing instruments. They proceed from the monastery to the river and there conduct prayers before returning to the monastery.

Since the war of June 1967, this has been a area and the monks have been forbidden to live at the monastery.