Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great
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The church tower at St Macarius' Monastery
|Other names||Deir Abu Makar|
|Dedicated to||Saint Macarius the Great|
|Diocese||Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria|
|Founder(s)||Saint Macarius the Great|
|Important associated figures||Saint Arsenius
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
Saint John the Dwarf
Saint Macarius of Alexandria
Saint Macarius the Bishop
Saint Moses the Black
|Location||Wadi El Natrun|
The monastery was founded in approximately 360 AD by Saint Macarius of Egypt, who was the spiritual father to more than four thousand monks of different nationalities. From its foundation in the 4th century up to the present day, the monastery has been continuously inhabited by monks. Several Christian saints and fathers of the early Church were monks at the Monastery of Saint Macarius, such as Saint Macarius of Alexandria, Saint John the Dwarf, Saint Paphnutius the Ascetic, Saint Isidore, Saint Arsenius, Saint Moses the Black, Saint Poemen, Saint Serapion and many others.
In 1969, the monastery entered an era of restoration, both spiritually and architecturally, with the arrival of twelve monks under the spiritual leadership of Father Matta El Meskeen. These monks had spent the previous ten years living together entirely isolated from the world, in the desert caves of Wadi El Rayyan, about 50 kilometres south of Fayoum.
Pope Cyril VI ordered this group of monks to leave Wadi El Rayyan and go to the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great to restore it. At that time only six aged monks were living in the monastery and its historic buildings were on the verge of collapsing. The new monks were received by the abbot of the monastery, Bishop Michael, Metropolitan of Assiut.
Under Pope Shenouda III, who was himself busily engaged in restoring the Monastery of Saint Pishoy and the Paromeos Monastery, and after fourteen years of constant activity both in reconstruction and spiritual renewal, the monastic community in the Monastery of Saint Macarius numbers about one hundred monks.
The Monastery of Saint Macarius maintains spiritual, academic and fraternal links with several monasteries abroad, including the monastery of Chevtogne in Belgium, Solesmes Abbey and the Monastery of the Transfiguration in France, Deir El Harf in Lebanon and the Convent of the Incarnation in England.
The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great contains the relics of many saints, such as the Forty Nine Elder Martyrs of Scetes.
The discovery of the relics of Saint John the Baptist and Elisha the Prophet
During the restoration of the big Church of Saint Macarius, the crypt of Saint John the Baptist and that of Elisha the Prophet were discovered below the northern wall of the church, in accordance with the site mentioned in manuscripts from the 11th & 16th centuries found in the library of the monastery. This is also confirmed by the ecclesiastical tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The relics were gathered in a special reliquary and placed before the sanctuary of Saint John the Baptist in the church of Saint Macarius. A detailed account of this discovery and an assessment of the authenticity of the relics was published by the monastery.
Popes from the Monastery of St. Macarius
- Pope Cyril of Alexandria (412–444)
- Pope John I (496-505)
- Pope John III (680-689)
- Pope Isaac (690-692)
- Pope Cosmas I (729-730)
- Pope Michael I (743-767)
- Pope Mina I (767-776)
- Pope John IV (777-799)
- Pope Mark II (799-819)
- Pope James (819-830)
- Pope Simeon II (830)
- Pope Joseph I (831-849)
- Pope Cosmas II (851-858)
- Pope Shenouda I (859-880)
- Pope Michael III (880-907)
- Pope Gabriel I (910-920)
- Pope Macarius I (932-952)
- Pope Theophanes (952-956)
- Pope Mina II (956-974)
- Pope Philotheos (979-1003)
- Pope Shenouda II (1032-1046)
- Pope Cyril II (1078–1092)
- Pope Michael IV (1092-1102)
- Pope Macarius II (1102-1128)
- Pope Michael V (1145-1146)
- Pope Peter V (1340-1348)
- Pope Mark V (1603-1619)
- Pope Matthew III (1631-1646)
- Pope Demetrius II (1861-1870)
As of 2013[update] the bishop and abbot of the Monastery of St. Macarius was Bishop Epiphanious.
Other monasteries of the Nitrian Desert
- Macarius of Egypt
- Coptic Orthodox Church
- Desert Fathers
- Wadi El Natrun
- Saint Bashnouna
- Father Matta El Meskeen
- "About the Monastery". The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great.