Dier ANBA BISHOY St. Bishoy Monastery, Wadi el Natrun

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The most eastern  monastery in the Wadi el-Natrun of Egypt  is Dier Al Anba Bishoy, which was founded by St. Bishoy, who was a disciple of St. Macaruis. St. Macaruis established a nearby monastery. The current St Bishoy Monastrry buildings date from ninth century; still in use today.

  St. Bishoy was born in the Egyptian Nile Delta in 320 AD.  His parents were deeply religious, and it is said that in a dream one night, an angle of the Lord asked for the services of one of her children. St. Bishoy's mother gave the the angler his selection of her children, and the angle choose Bishoy.  A frail child, his mother thought that the angle might do better, but the angle said that, "the Lord's power in frailty is perfect". At the age of twenty, Bishoy joined the Monastery of Seetis. He was particularly fond of the book of Jeremiah from the Old Testament, and was therefore called Abbot Bishoy the Jeremian.

Besides the relics of Saint Bishoy, the church also contains those of three other saints, murals of the disciples, apostles and Coptic saints and a beautifully carved door dating to the 12th century.  Visitors should also explore the ancient refectory, a long thin room of domes and arches that has been turned into a museum. However, the acoustics in this room are said to be amazing, and worth a visit for that reason along.




There are five churches in the monastery, but the main church is called St. Bishoi.  It has three haykals (sanctuaries), but these days this church is used only in the summer.  Another church, the Church of the Virgin, is to the southeast and is used in the winter.  To the south is the Church of St. Iskhirun, and there is also a Church of St. George that is not used at all. Like the Monastery of Macaruis, there is a qasr which is accessed by a drawbridge at its first level and has a Church of the Angel Michael on the second level. 

The Tower:

Defensive towers, are keeps have been a part of the architecture of Wadi El-Natrun's monasteries since the fifth century. This was a time when the Berbers often attacked monasteries in the area.  It was Emperor Zenon who fist built keeps in Coptic monasteries, and the tower in the Anba Bishoy Monastery is the largest and strongest of the valley.

The Old Castle

Originally there was a one story castle build by abbot Boutros who died in 1927 for the reception of guests to the monastery, but this was later destroyed. It stood to the left of the church.  The Well of the Martyrs was discovered when these old ruins were removed.  The current castle is four stories, with a tower and water tank.  It was built recently by Pope Shenouda the Third.

The well of Martyrs

Now called the Well of the Martyrs, this facility has been used ever since the time of Anba Bishoy. It is said that the Berbers washed the blood from their swords after having killed the 49 Martyrs from the monasteries of Sheheit. Monks at the monastery also say that the Martyers were thrown in the well prior to being interned at the nearby St. Marcarius Monastery. It is 12 meters depth and continues to produce fresh water.

The Rehabilitation of he Monastery

This monastery became a major project for his Holiness Pope Shenouda the Third after becoming Patriarch of the See of St. Mark on November 14, 1971. Pope Shenouda personally chose Bishop Sarabamun to run the monastery, with intentions of expansion. New land was purchased and developed, a cattle breeding operation was established and poultry and dairy facilities were built and equipped.

Buildings and grounds were also restored, taking care especially of the ancient churches. Considerable effort was made to keep the ambiance and physical appearance as near as possible to its ecclesiastical heritage. Many buildings were constructed outside the ancient monastery.  These included cells for monks, retreat houses, a residence for the Coptic Pope, annexes for a reception area, an auditorium, conference rooms as well as fences and gates.


Title Author Date Publisher
2000 Years of Coptic Christianity Meinardus, Otto F. A. 1999 American University in Cairo Press, The
Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments Through Two Millennia Capuani, Massimo 1999 Liturgical Press, The
Churches and Monasteries of Egypt and Some Neigbouring Countires, The Abu Salih, The Armenian, Edited and Translated by Evetts, B.T.A. 2001 Gorgias Press
Deir Al Anba Bishoy (Monastery of St. Bishoy or Bishoi or Pishoi) At Wadi El-Natrun Jimmy Dunn 2003  


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Related Topics

  There are four monasteries in Egypt named after Anba Bishoy: