Information about Saint Macarius Monastery in Wadi El Natrun

Saint Macarius Monastery is the first monastery built in Wadi El Natrun. In fact, it also called Abu Makar Monastery. Byzantine rulers mandated that the Coptic Patriarchs no longer live in Alexandria. It was in the 6th century. That is why Saint Macarius Monastery acquired a new importance as the seat of the Coptic church. It remained an important monastery throughout the ages. St. Macarius lived as a hermit monk in a cave for over forty years. He received a divine revelation in the form of a dream to build a church. When he died in 390, he buried in his beloved cave. His monks remained and the cell where he buried became the center of the monastery. His relics kept as treasures and still remain.

In fact, the monastery became a memorial to him so that people might not forget his story, devotion and piety. A team from Leiden University in the Netherlands excavating this site since 1995. It seems they may end up providing an analysis. Moreover, the analysis of how a loose group of hermits might have evolved into a monastic society. In fact, Saint Macarius Monastery began as an open, informal structure more like a village. Moreover, there was a church and a keep (tower). Most of the present Saint Macarius monastery rebuilt by Patriarch Shanudah (859-81). It was after attacked and destroyed for the third time by Berbers in 866. By the end of that century, the tower’s outer walls reinforced.

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In fact, most of the settlement surrounded by an outer defensive wall. It giving it the real appearance of a monastery. This wall may have encouraged hermit monks to live within, resulting in a true monastery. Moreover, the palace of Saint Macarius Monastery is a three story building. It accessed by a drawbridge at its first story level. There are mills, storeroom sand a well on the ground floor. The Chapel Virgin Mary is on the first floor. It has three alters (sanctuaries) of about 13th century origin. The second story has three churches. They are church of the Angle Michael to the North and the Church of St. Anthony, Paul & Pachomius. In the southernmost, there is the church of the Travelers (Al Sawwah)

In fact, much of the Church of St. Macarius destroyed in 1930, but there remains two alters dating to 830. St. Macarius and St. John the Short, among a few other saints buried there. There is a small church of St. Iskhirun of Killin with three alters and two alters which used for storage. Furthermore, there is also a church of the Forty-Nine Martyrs which used during fasts and the Feast of Nativity. In the church of Anba Makar there are icons of the three St. Macarii, which is the oldest icon in the monastery.

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Saint Macarius monastery is indeed the richest in the Wadi El Natrun. There is a coffin in the church of Abu Makar. It contains the relics of sixteen patriarchs of the Coptic church. Moreover, there is also the relics of the forty nine martyers whom killed by the Berbers. In fact, they buried in the church of the Elders. Relics also include those of the three Macarii. They are St. Macarius the Great, St. Macarius the Alexandrian and the Martyr saint Macarius. The last one was the Bishop of Edfu. Moreover, other relics include those of St. IIaria, the daughter of King Zenun. She disguised herself as a man to be a monk in the monastery. And finally there are the relics of St. John the Little (St. John Colobos or Anba Yoanis the Short).

Ancient icons within the monastery are the following:

Anba Makar the Great, the Egyptian carrying the cross. It is as a symbol of his perseverance, honesty and self mortification.

Anba Makar the Alexandrian carrying a ladder (as a symbol of his zeal to get virtues step by step).

Anba Makar the bishop of Edfu carrying a small lamb between his arms. He also was a Priest and martyr whom brought to slaughter. Moreover, he also painted with white clothes.

St. Yehnis the Short was the spiritual son of Anba Makar. He was of the second generation, and his monastery was 15 km south west of Saint Macarius monastery. His relics transferred to monastery of Saint Macarius Monastery when his monastery ruined.

It was the usual habit after a patriarch elected and consecrated to the See of St. Mark in Alexandria. It is that he would ordained and sanctified in this monastery. Many patriarchs ordained in this monastery and many of them buried here. In fact, Saint Macarius monastery seen west from the CairoAlexandria desert highway. Moreover, it is at about 129 Km. to Alexandria or 86 to Cairo.

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