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The Bawit Monastery

Following the example of a number of great hermits—the most famous being Saint Anthony (who lived in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries)—hermitages and monasteries sprang up all over the desert fringe along the Nile valley. The Bawit Monastery was founded between 385 and 390 by Saint Apollo, who chose an uninhabited spot on the plain bordering the cliffs of the Libyan desert. The sand-covered ruins of the monastery form a 40-hectare archaeological mound seven to ten meters high. The site was near the fertile Nile valley, where the monks managed a number of estates which provided them with income and victuals. The monastery was not completely isolated from the rest of the world: to the north was the city of el-Ashmunein (the former Hermopolis Magna), and on the opposite bank of the Nile was (Antinoopolis), the capital of Upper Egypt (the Thebaid). The region abounded in hermitages and monasteries, whose memory lives on in the names (beginning with Deir- in Arabic) given to the various sites.

The Bawit Monastery flourished until the 8th or 9th century, then declined with the Islamization of Egypt. We have no record of the exact date of its desertion; the most recent known indication of its activity is an inscription dated to the 10th century.


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