The Monastery of St. Paul
St. Paul was born in Alexandria in 228 AD. While he was still a teenager his father died, so he decided to become a hermit, living a simple life. At the age of 16 he became a Christian and then escaped Alexandria to avoid the Roman persecution.
According to one story, God send him an angel who guided him to the western desert, where he would live alone as a hermit. The same story relates how God sent him a crow everyday, which carried half a loaf of bread. One day St. Anthony joined him, and when the crow came, it had a full loaf of bread. St. Paul then realized that it was God who had sent St. Anthony, after 80 years of being worshipped in solitude.
St. Anthony went back to his patriarch to tell him of the holiness of St. Paul, then returned back the cave where St. Paul was living: to find him dead. He became confused, and did not know what to do with the Holy body, as he had nothing to dig the ground with so that he could bury him, until he saw two lions standing by the door of the cave, which approached the corpse and used their claws to dig in the ground. St. Anthony put St. Paul’s body into this hole and buried him. This is why whenever you see an icon for St. Paul, either in the monastery, or the in the Coptic museum in Cairo, it shows him a flanked by two lions, with a crow above his head.
The Monastery of St. Paul, Egypt
The monastery is about 40 Km to the south of the monastery of St. Anthony, and is built on a high hill. It covers an area of about 5 acres of land. It is rectangular in shape, 200 meters long by 100 metres wide, and has an enclosure wall that is 2 metres thick.
The Monastery consists of:
The Church of St. Paul
This is the oldest structure in the whole monastery. It was built on top of the cave where St. Paul had lived for 80 years in the wilderness of the desert. The cave is 3 metres below sea level, and is reachable by a staircase: at the end of it there are 3 sanctuaries
The Church of St. John the Baptist
It is built on top of St. Paul’s church, and has only one sanctuary. It contains a little library.
The Church of St. Michael
It has three sanctuaries, and it is divided into four sections of equal size. It is covered with 12 domes. The monastery also has the remains of an old fortress that has a little guesthouse, storerooms, and a garden.