Three Coptic monasteries in the southern city of Naqada, Qena, some 610km south of Cairo, have reopened following meticulous renovation carried out by the Ministry of Antiquities.
Anba Pimen, Bishop of Naqada and Qous, joined Usama Talaat, Head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, to open the renovated monasteries. The three monasteries are named after Archangel Mikhael, Saint Pasanta’os, and Mar-Girgis (Saint George). Built in mud brick and red brick, they go back to the early Christian centuries, but include many later additions.
The restoration works lasted some three years, and involved restoring the churches of Archangel Michael and the Holy Virgin; reinforcing the foundations, treating all the brick walls; treating the church floors, reinforcing the walls, vaults, and domes; and replacing the electricity networks. All three sites were renovated and equipped to receive worshippers and visitors.
According to Dr Talaat, the monasteries of Naqada feature an outstanding model of Coptic monastery architecture that involves mudbrick in splendid architectural formations. He said that during work at Archangel Michael Monastery, a circular bathtub dating back to the 10th – 11th century Fatimid era was uncovered; it was carefully restored and a thick glass cover was placed over it to preserve it. He also pointed out that some outstanding architectural elements were unearthed in addition to granite pillars.
Other than the three that were restored, Naqada is home to three other monasteries: the monasteries of the Holy Cross, St Abu al-Leef, and Mar-Boctor (St Victor).
Naqada was home to the Naqada Culture, an archaeological culture that existed in predynastic Egypt c.4400 -3000BC. It later became an important Coptic centre with a Coptic majority for many centuries, and is famous for having preserved the Coptic language until the 1950s.