The Monastery of St. Anthony the Great in Egypt is the oldest in the country. Moreover, after the monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, it is the largest in the territory occupied by the monastery and temple complexes – about 7 hectares. Among other things, this monastery is very revered by the Christians of Egypt, it is here that they all gather in order to celebrate Easter – the Resurrection of the Lord. After all, as you know, the Monk Anthony, later called the Great, is the most famous Christian saint in the history of Egypt, who once completely switched from paganism to Orthodoxy.
Anthony was born into a Christian family. He was rich, but after the death of his parents at the age of only 20 years, he decided to renounce the worldly things. In the Gospel, he read an admonition that said: a person who wants to attain perfection must give his wealth to the poor and leave after God in order to find a spiritual treasure. And so he did: he went into the mountains and settled in a cave, a hermit. Until his death, he lived in the mountains and every day he traveled many kilometers for water and back. Now this path is covered with a staircase of 1700 steps leading to the cave of Anthony.Anthony is considered the father of monasticism, or rather, the founder of hermitage in Egypt. He went into solitude while still very young.
Antony met Paul of Thebes during one of his visits to Alexandria , the city at that time bearing the status of the capital of Egypt. Pavel was deeply shocked by the communication with Anthony, and later it was he who took part in the funeral of the teacher and the laying of the Antonian monastery. Paul fulfilled the teacher’s last will: to make a secret burial, so that no one would know where his tomb was. Modern Christian Arabs claim that St. Anthony still rests under the walls of the monastery. However, the French refute this version, believing that the relics of Anthony were found and transported to the monastery of Saint Antoine.
Little is known about St. Paul, after whom the second Christian monastery is named. However, his name is associated with a legend: a saint who decided to lead the life of a hermit in the desert, lived thanks to alms … of a raven. Every day he flew in to bring him bread and dates. Paul did not communicate with other Christians; he lived in solitude and too far from worldly fuss. It is known that he died at a respectable age – more than a hundred years. His grave is located under the walls of a monastery named after the saint.
The first buildings of the monastery were laid in the 3rd century AD, almost immediately after the death of St. Anthony. Then, believers from all over Egypt, as well as from other countries – Syria, Ethiopia, began to flock to the place of his burial. Many monks from the Wadi Natrun valley, whose monasteries were destroyed by the Bedouins, also moved here. So the monastery grew and was inhabited by new monks. The country remained faithful to the cross until the invasion of the Arabs and total “Muslimization”, often violent and inevitable. And the monastery also suffered from raids by Muslim Arabs. In the 11th century, it was completely destroyed, was empty for about 100 years, and only after that it was rebuilt by the Copts for a long time.
Today, the monastery of St. Anthony amazes with its majesty and amazing sense of holiness and grace, not only for pilgrims, but also for ordinary tourists. One of the oldest buildings in the monastery complex is the church, which was laid in the early years of the monastery. Of course, it has not been preserved in its original form, but it boasts interior interiors with 13th-century frescoes. This is the church of the same name – the church of St. Anthony, in addition to which there are several more churches in the monastery complex.
Most of all tourists like to be at the holy springs, the most famous among them, according to legend, was discovered by Anthony himself, the water in it has healing power.
Above the monastery at a distance of about 2.5 km is the Anthony Cave, in which he spent the years of his life, abandoning worldly pleasures. Inside the stone grotto there is an altar with several icons, and worship is held here on major church holidays. Surprisingly, around the monastery, in the same small caves, monks still live – elders who have renounced the benefits of civilization.
The monastery is located 290 km south of the Egyptian capital Cairo in the north of the Red Sea province. From Hurghada to the monastery can be reached with a group tour – this is the best option for visiting the shrine.
The monastery is open daily from 4:00 to 17:00, except for the last days of Great Lent before Easter.