Day 39 Wall paintings in a Coptic monastery

The Deir Anba Hadra – formerly called the St. Simeon Monastery – is a medieval monastery on the west bank of the Nile at Aswan. It was inhabited by Coptic monks from the 6th to the 13th centuries.

View of the monastery coming from the bank of the Nile (Photo: DAI)

The monastery church integrates a rock grotto which at an earlier date was probably used by hermits as a dwelling. The murals in the church feature a row of 43 saints including King David, the apostles Peter and Paul, famous monks like Apa Shenoute, and regionally worshipped monastic saints like Apa Hatre, the monastery’s patron. None of the saints are foregrounded; instead they appear as a “cloud of witnesses” observing those who enter the church. Every saint is nevertheless individually rendered and no two faces are alike. The six saints who are half hidden by the later church wall (their names have not been deciphered) share the same high quality of execution.

The DAI Cairo has been investigating the Deir Anba Hadra in cooperation with the Excellence Cluster TOPOI since 2013.

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