Friday, November 21, 2014

The monasteries of Wadi Natrun

ANSAMED: Egypt: Wadi Natrun, the desert of ascetics. Excerpt:
'An oasis of peace, where protection can be sought in these terrible times experienced by the country'', continued the monk who tells the ancient story of these monasteries. They are completely self-sufficient, hosting true farms exceeding 4,000 hectares, as Anba Bishoy, where 220 monks live, including a 'qsar', a small fortification which thanks to a drawbridge enabled monks to seek refuge from invasions and devastation that until the 7th century affected the region.

Choosing to visit Wadi Natrun, as Father Bejimi recalls, means seeking to draw closer to this world made of simplicity and spirituality. There are no mosaics or breath-taking frescoes among these walls. The art made by Coptic monks, often living in extreme poverty, however includes small masterpieces such as bas-reliefs, paintings, manuscripts, codes, icons, wood caskets, painted fabrics.

Some of the frescoes and icons date back to the 7th century, decorating the main church dedicated to the Virgin close to the monastery of Syrians, the smallest of the four. As well as preserving the most important work of Coptic art after the year 1,000, Deir El Soriany is famous for its vast library (in the 19th century, 1,000 books were moved to the British Museum).
Much more on the Deir al-Surian Monastery and its manuscripts is here and links.