Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has launched a restoration project in the 5th-century desert monastery of Anba Pola, St Paul the Anchorite, also known as St Paul of Thebes. The monastery is situated on a hill in the Eastern Desert overlooking the Red Sea, some 115km south of Suez.
According to Waadallah Abul-Ela, head of the Ministry’s Projects Department, the first phase of restoration includes the old guesthouse, commonly known as the ‘palace’, as well as the old fencing wall of the monastery. The second phase will include restoration of the path alongside which the old cells stand next to the wall, whereas the third phase will be concerned with the architectural and fine restoration of the old church.
The restoration project was launched in 2009 when 40 per cent of the first phase was accomplished, but was later halted owing to the political unrest and economic straits that gripped Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. Funds for the project were no longer available.
Earlier this month, the project resumed, but the monastery is paying the cost of restoration.
“Inside the monastery, there are a number of important architectural elements,” said Ahmed Nemr, member of the technical office at the Ministry. “These include the old church built on the site believed to have been the cave where Anba Pola lived for 70 years during the 3rd-4th-century. There are also a number of churches including Abu-Seifein’s and Archangel Michael’s; also a keep, which is a fort commonly found in desert monasteries to guard against raids by local nomad communities.
18 February 2018