The Monastery Of St. Anthony
Believed to have been initially constructed in the 4th century A.D., the Monastery of St. Anthony is located at the foot of Khelsm Mountain overlooking the Red Sea. It is almost 12 km south of Zafarana City. It is considered the site where St. Anthony once lived in a cave and is situated next to a well. St. Anthony was the first monk to move to this wilderness and the first to create a monastic community in Coptic Egypt.
During the 9th century A.D., additional land was added to the monastery, increasing its area to almost three acres. High walls and watchtowers were built around it to protect it from the Bedouins, giving it the appearance of a fortress. Today, these walls are 12 meters high and two meters wide.
First-time visitors to the monastery often wonder why the walls were constructed using mud bricks, especially as the area has plenty of limestones. This was an excellent choice by the builders, who noticed that the extreme differences in temperature between day and night, summer and winter, could quickly erode the limestone. They used mud bricks so it would last. This is why so much of the wall is still intact today.
The Monastery of St. Anthony is the biggest in Egypt today. It covers an area of more than 18 acres and includes a massive garden with trees, fruits, and vegetables.
The Church of St. Anthony
Dating from the 4th Century, this church is rectangular and measures 20 meters by 10 meters. It is divided into four sections: one for the monks, another for the priests, a third for bishops, and the fourth for the elderly monks. All four parts are covered with three vast and lovely domes.
The Church Of The Apostles
This is a small church with three altars. Like the main church, it is rectangular and divided into four sections, each covered with a dome. It is connected to the Church of St. Anthony by a small corridor.
The Church Of The Virgin
This church is on the second floor of the monastery. It is relatively small and divided into three sections, each separated from the others by a wooden grille.
The New Church
The New Church dates back to the 19th Century A.D. and is the monastery's newest and most prominent building. It has 12 rooms and was built with modern architectural elements. However, the monks rarely use it for prayer as the church is not fully orientated towards the east in keeping with Coptic beliefs.
The monastery once had an enormous library full of books and manuscripts. Unfortunately, many 5th-century European expeditions plundered this treasure of manuscripts to fill the big cathedrals of Europe. It was estimated that all left in the library was around 1,000 books, which were transferred to Cairo for safety.
This was a sanctuary fort for the monks in times of raids and danger. It was built in the 6th Century A.D. and covers an area of 200 square meters. It has three floors; the only door is on the second floor. This made it difficult to break into and offered more safety in dangerous historical times.
The guesthouse, built in the 19th Century century, consists of 4 rooms and a long hall. It is equipped with lots of furniture and facilities and is a great place to stay.