Page images

rule. In his time he says that huge columns and buildings inscribed with hieroglyphs were still visible. The Coptic name Manbalot, uc Ñ B&RoT “place of the sack," is the original of its Arabic name to-day. Quite close on the east bank is Ma'abdah, in the hills of which was founded a burial place full of mummies of crocodiles.

Asyût, 2494 miles from Cairo, is the capital of the province of the same name, and the seat of the InspectorGeneral of Upper Egypt; it stands on the site of the ancient Egyptian city called

Saut, whence the Arabic name Siûț or Asyût, and the Coptic CIWOTT. The Greeks called the city Lycopolis, or “wolf city," probably because the jackal-headed Anubis was worshipped there. In ancient Egyptian times the sacred name of the city was Per- Anpu -

and it formed the

capital of the XVIIth or Anubis nome,

, of Upper

Egypt. Asyûț is a large city, with spacious bazaars and fine mosques; it is famous for its red pottery and for its market, held every Sunday, to which wares from Arabia and Upper Egypt are brought.

The American Missionaries have a large establishment, and the practical, useful education of the natives by these devoted men is carried on bere, as well as at Cairo, on a large scale. The Asyûț Training College was specially established to provide and prepare workers to carry on the educational and evangelistic operations of the Evangelical community in Egypt, and nearly all the male teachers, in number 215, have been trained in it. At the end of 1904 there were 686 boarders and day pupils in the institution, who represented scores of towns and villages, and came from all parts of Egypt. The expenses of the College were in 1904 $20,038. The College was opened

on 13th March, 1865, by Dr. Hogg with five pupils ! In the same year (1904) the American Mission had in all Egypt 167 schools with 14,884 pupils, and 399 teachers. During 1904 over 98,000 volumes have been distributed throughout Egypt by the Book Department; and over 40,000 copies of the Old or New Testament, or of single Gospels have been placed in the hands of the people. The population of the field of the Mission is 8,000,000, and the foreign missionaries are 68 in number. The Mission was established in 1854, and the history of the work which it has carried out with conspicuous success is modestly told by Dr. Andrew Watson in the “ American Mission of Egypt, 1854–1896, Pittsburgh, 1898."

The Arabic geographers described Asyûţ as a town of considerable size, beauty, and importance, and before the abandonment of the Sûdân by the Khedive all caravans from that region stopped there. In the hills to the west of the town are a number of ancient Egyptian tombs, which date back as far as the XIIth dynasty. A large number have been destroyed during the present century for the sake of the limestone which forms the walls. When M. Denon stayed here he said that the number of hieroglyphic inscriptions which cover the tombs was so great that many months would be required to read, and many years to copy them. The disfigurement of the tombs dates from the time when the Christians took up their abode in them. The Barrage at Asyûţ has already been described (see p. 174).

Fifteen miles farther south is the Coptic town of Abû Tîg, the name of which appears to be derived from ANOOHKH, a "granary”; and 145 miles beyond, 279 miles from Cairo, is Kau al-Kabir (the TKWOT of the Copts), which marks the site of Antaeopolis, the capital of the Antaeopolite nome in Upper Egypt. The temple which formerly existed

here was dedicated to Antaeus,* the Libyan wrestler, who fought with Hercules. In the plain close by it is said by Diodorus that the battle between Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, and Set or Typhon, the murderer of Osiris, took place; Typhon was overcome, and fled away in the form of a crocodile. In Christian times Antaeopolis was the seat of a bishop.

Tahtah, 291} miles from Cairo, contains some interesting mosques, and is the home of a large number of Copts, in consequence of which, probably, the town is kept clean.

Sûhâg, 3173 miles from Cairo, is the capital of the province of Girgah; near it are the White and Red Monasteries.

The Dêr al-Abyad or “White Monastery," so called because of the colour of the stone of which it is built, but better known by the name of Amba Shenûdah, is situated on the west bank of the river near Sûhâg, 3173 miles from Cairo. “The peculiarity of this monastery is that the interior was once a magnificent basilica, while the exterior was built by the Empress Helena, in the ancient Egyptian style. The walls slope inwards towards the summit, where they are crowned with a deep overhanging cornice. The building is of an oblong shape, about 200 feet in length by go wide, very well built of fine blocks of stone; it has no windows outside larger than loopholes, and these are at a great height from the ground. Of these there are twenty on the south side and nine at the east end. The monastery stands at the foot of the hill, on the edge of the Libyan desert, where the sand encroaches on the plain. . . .... The ancient doorway of red granite has been partially closed up." (Curzon, Monasteries of the Leant, p. 131.) There were formerly six gates; the single en

* He was the son of Poseidon and Ge, and was invincible as long as he remained in contact with his mother earth,

trance now remaining is called the “mule gate," because when a certain heathen princess came riding on a mule to desecrate the church, the earth opened and swallowed her up. The walls enclose a space measuring about 240 feet by 133 feet. The convent was dedicated to Shenûti,* a calebrated Coptic saint who lived in the fourth century of our era. Curzon says (op. cit., p. 132). ..... “The tall granite columns of the ancient church reared themselves like an avenue on either side of the desecrated nave, which is now open to the sky, and is used as a promenade for a host of chickens. ........ The principal entrance was formerly at the west end, where there is a small vestibule, immediately within the door of which, on the left hand, is a small chapel, perhaps the baptistery, about twenty-five feet long, and still in tolerable preservation. It is a splendid specimen of the richest Roman architecture of the latter empire, and is truly an imperial little room. The arched ceiling is of stone; and there are three beautifully ornamented niches on each side. The upper end is semicircular, and has been entirely covered with a profusion of sculpture in panels, cornices, and every kind of architectural enrichment. When it was entire, and covered with gilding, painting, or mosaic, it must have been most gorgeous. The altar on such a chapel as this was probably of gold, set full of gems; or if it was the baptistery, as I suppose, it most likely contained a bath of the most precious jasper, or of some of the more rare kinds of marble, for the immersion of the converted heathen, whose entrance into the church was not permitted until they had been purified with the waters of baptism in a building without the door of the house of God” (p. 135). The library once contained over a hundred parchment books, but these were

• Shenûdah, Coptic cenort Shenûti, was born A. D. 333 ; he died at midday on July 2, A.D. 451, aged, it is said, 118 years !

destroyed by the Mamlaks when they last sacked the convent.

In this monastery the bodies of Saint Bartholomew and Simon the Canaanite are said to be buried, but the body of its founder was laid in the monastery which stood on the Mountain of Athribis, a name derived from the Egyptian Het-erpāt, 18


do The Dêr al-Aħmar or "Red Monastery,” so called be cause of the red colour of the bricks of which it is built, was also built by the Empress Helena; it is smaller and better preserved than the White Monastery, and was dedicated to the Abba Bêsa, the disciple and friend of Shenûti. The pillars of both churches were taken from Athribis, which lay close by; the orientation of neither church is exact, for their axes point between N.E. and N.E. by E. The ruined church of Armant near Thebes is built on the same model.

All lovers of Coptic buildings will be grateful to Lord Cromer for the promptitude which he has shown in connection with the repairing of these monasteries, which contain the two most important churches in Egypt. Mr. Somers Clarke called attention to the ruined state of the monasteries, and very soon after Herz Bey, Architect to the Comité de Conservation, took steps to preserve the buildings and to clear out the squalid houses which had been built up within the walls. The Egyptian Government granted £E.4,000 for the work of restoration, and to this sum the Coptic Patriarch added £E.1,000.

A few miles south of Sûhâg, on the east bank of the river, lies the town of Akhmîm, called Shmin or Chmim, cyeen, xelili, (hence Khemmis) by the Copts, and Panopolis by the Greeks; Strabo and Leo Africanus say that it was one of the most ancient cities of Egypt. The ithyphallic god Amsu, or Menu, identified by the Greeks with Pan, was

« PreviousContinue »