St. Anthony’s Monastery
(Deir Mar Antonios)
St. Anthony the Great, when orphaned at the age of 18, became a hermit and thus lived to 105 years old. He lived as an Anchorite, as still exists in Egypt, and it is said that he was tormented his entire life by flatteries and temptations of the devil. He, along with St. Pachomius, were two of the first exponents of Christian monasticism, which originated in the Egyptian desert. He is buried beneath one of the ancient churches (St. Anthony) of the monastery.
St. Anthony’s Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), and its neighbor St. Paul’s, are the oldest monasteries in Egypt. Hidden deep in the Red Sea Mountains and relying on springs for their water supply, both still observe rituals that have hardly changed in 16 centuries. They are accessible by special tours from Cairo, Suez or Hurghada and a stay in either monastery can be arranged in advance.
St. Anthony’s was founded in 356 AD, just after the saints death. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the monastery flourished but was plundered in 1454 by Bedouin servants. Today it is a self-contained village with gardens, a mill, a bakery and five churches with exceptional wall paintings of holy knights in bright colors and the hermit founders of the monastery in subdued colors and icons. There is also a library with over 1,700 handwritten manuscripts, but the Bedouin servants who plundered the monastery used many manuscripts for cooking fuel. At one time, there must have been a much more extensive library. St. Anthony’s Cave (magharah), where he lived as a hermit, is a 2 km hike from the monastery and 680 m. above the Red Sea. It offers stunning views of the mountains and the sea, and the chance to see a wide range of bird life.