Day 79 The largest early Christian pilgrimage site of the ancient world

Abandoned since the 9th century, the pilgrimage site of Abu Mena in the western Nile delta was the biggest early Christian pilgrimage centre in the ancient world. It’s the location of the grave of Saint Menas, a martyr in the Diocletianic persecution of Christians.

Menas flask from Abu Mina, fired clay, 6th century AD (Photo: DAI Cairo)

Along with the biggest church complex of the Near East, there existed large dormitories for pilgrims, baths, various utility buildings and many houses. Pilgrims could buy small flasks produced at Abu Mena and containing a drop of consecrated oil. These Menas flasks are found widely throughout the ancient world.

A team from the DAI Cairo has been conducting research at the ancient pilgrimage centre since 1961. It has published its many findings in the “Abu Mina” series, which runs to several volumes.

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