St Antony, son of well-to-do parents, he was orphaned at the age of 18 and upon hearing the Words of the Gospel, he gave all his possessions to the poor and placed his younger sister in a house for virgins, and sought to live a solitary life with God. His fame spread not only throughout Egypt and throughout the Roman Empire, many scholars, philosophers and emperors, including Emperor Constantine and his sons. St Antony died at the age of 105 on Mount Colzim; the site of the present day Monastery of St Antony the Great, a community was formed shortly after the saint’s death in memory of him. St Antony feast day is celebrated in the Coptic Church on 30 January, which corresponds to 22 Tuba according to the Coptic calendar. His life defined the nature of monastic spirituality and became the model for all subsequent forms of ascetic life. St. Antony’s Cave (magharah), where he lived as a solitary person, is a 2 km hike from the monastery and 680 m. above the Red Sea. It offers stunning views of the mountains and the sea.
St. Antony’s Monastery
St. Antony’s Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), and its neighbor St. Paul’s, are both Coptic Christian and are the oldest inhabited monasteries in Egypt. Hidden deep in the Red Sea Mountains and relying on springs for their water supply, both still observe rituals that have hardly changed in 16 centuries. St. Antony’s Monastery, which lies at the foot of Al-Qalzam Mountain near Al Zaafarana, was founded in 356 AD just after the saint’s death and is the oldest active monastery in the world. St. Antony founded several monasteries during his life but they do not exist anymore. During the sixth and seventh centuries, many monks from Wadi Natroun were under frequent attacks by Bedouins and they migrated to St. Antony’s. This monastery was plundered on many occasions and was also partly destroyed in the 11th century. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the monastery flourished but was plundered again in 1454 by Bedouin servants. Due to such attacks, this is a fortress style monastery. Though Coptic today, over its many years the monastery was often multi-faith, housing monks of several different Christian Denominations. The Monastery has exceptional wall paintings of holy knights in bright colors and the hermit founders of the monastery in subdued colors and icons. These wall paintings, widely know to monks and art historians, were obscured by soot, candle grease, oil and dust, but recently, in a collaborated effort between the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the American Research Center in Egypt, these unique painting were restored.
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