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
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.
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
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.
|2000 Years of Coptic Christianity
||Meinardus, Otto F. A.
||American University in Cairo Press, The
|Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments Through Two
||Liturgical Press, The
|Churches and Monasteries of Egypt and Some Neigbouring
||Abu Salih, The Armenian, Edited and Translated by Evetts,
|Deir Al Anba Bishoy (Monastery of St.
Bishoy or Bishoi or Pishoi) At Wadi El-Natrun