The Red Sea city includes important archaeological monasteries, as it is the source of Coptic Orthodox monasticism, and monasticism in Egypt began at the hand of Anba Antonius, the world's first monk, who gave its name to the Monastery of Saint Anthony in the Red Sea, which is the first monastery to be established in the world.
The Monastery of St. Anthony in the city of "Ras Gharib", and the Monastery of St. Paul in the city of "Zaafarana" are among the most important monasteries in Egypt, and they are among the oldest monasteries that date back to the Byzantine era.
Saint Anthony Monastery is the oldest Coptic monastery in Egypt, which marks the beginning of the monastic tradition in the country. According to tradition, Saint Anthony (4th century), orphaned at the age of 18, retired to the solitude in the mountains to serve God. Having forbidden his followers to approach his cave, they camped at the foot of the hill, thus forming the core initiative of the current Monastery of Saint Anthony, constructed shortly after his death in the same place where he was buried.
It is the largest monastic complex in Egypt, with numerous churches and chapels, and a large wing for housing, which however today houses about 80 monks. For the first time in more than a century, the monastery expands, welcoming Coptic Christians consecrated to the life of spiritual purpose.
The monastery of Saint Anthony has preserved greatly its initial vision, despite the assaults of Bedouin societies in the 8th century. The most classical structure of the complex is the church of Saint Anthony, built on the tomb of the saint. The interior walls of the church carry exciting 13th-century frescoes, all delicately renovated during the 90s of the past century.
Another not less significant monastery by the Red Sea is the Monastery of Saint Paul, smaller and more out of the way than that of Saint Anthony, which can be reached via a steep and turning road.
Currently surrounded by high walls, it was built starting from the inside, around the cave where Paul the Hermit lived for almost 90 years during the fourth and fifth centuries. Originally from Alexandria, Saint Paul - not to be confused with the Apostle Saint Paul, he was a member of a wealthy family. At the age of only 16, he resigned to the desert, tired of the persecutions done during the Roman era to become the 1st hermit.
Beyond the church, the imposing five-storey tower is certainly interesting, supplied with water through a hidden channel, which served to protect the monks from the incursions of the Bedouins. The best way to reach the Monastery of St. Paul is to book our day trip to the monasteries of the Red Sea from our variety of Cairo day tours.
The two monasteries are also connected today by a steep road and, even if in the area line the two caves are less than 40 km away, the path on the ground exceeds sufficiently 80 km. According to legend, when St. Paul died, it was Saint Anthony who faced the long journey in the mountains to bury his body.
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