Deir el-Muharraq

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Deir el-Muharraq
Muharraq Monastery
Abbot's residency and guesthouse in the Muharraq Monastery complex
Deir el-Muharraq is located in Egypt
Deir el-Muharraq
Location within Egypt
Monastery information
Other names ad-Deir al-Muḥarraq,
Burned Monastery
Virgin Mary monastery
Established 4th century
Dedicated to Virgin Mary
Consecrated 1st century by baby Jesus
Diocese Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
Controlled churches St. George Church, Virgin Mary's Ancient Church, Holy Virgin Mary's Recent Church
Founder(s) Holy Family in Egypt
Location El-Qusiya, Asyut Governorate
Country  Egypt
Coordinates 27°26′40″N 30°49′00″E / 27.444444°N 30.816667°E / 27.444444; 30.816667Coordinates: 27°26′40″N 30°49′00″E / 27.444444°N 30.816667°E / 27.444444; 30.816667
Public access Yes

Deir el-Muharraq (Arabic: الدير المحرق‎, ad-Dayr al-Muḥarraq), is also known as the Muharraq Monastery, Burned Monastery, Virgin Mary monastery and Mount Koskam Monastery, is a monastic complex of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt. It is one of the oldest still operational monasteries in the world.[1]


The Deir el-Muharraq complex is located on the Nile just south of Cusae, in Asyut Governorate in Upper Egypt.[1] It is south of Greater Cairo. The monastery is unusual because it is one of the few Coptic ones in Egypt not located in the Sahara.[2]


The monastery is within the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria diocese, with about 100 monks of Koinonia or community monasticism in residence.[3][1][2]

The stone fortress on Mount Koskam at Muharraq Monastery was built in the 6th or 7th century. The fortress chapel has a 12th-century lectern, dating to when the fortress was first repaired.[4]

The monastery's library has two entities, an ancient Coptic manuscripts library and archives, and a contemporary research and reading library.


The monastery complex has three churches:

  • 12th century Virgin Mary's Ancient Church (with 16th and 19th century domes additions),[5]
  • 19th century Nepclassical style St. George Church (1878-1880),[6]
  • Mid-20th century Holy Virgin Mary's Recent Church (1940-1964).[7]

The Church of al-Adhra (Church of the Virgin) at the monastery was built over an ancient cave. It is claimed that Mary and Jesus spent six months and ten days here on their flight into Egypt from King Herod.[2] The altar stone is dated 747 CE.

Many Coptics hold this church in high veneration, believing it to be one of the first Christian churches in ancient Egypt.[2] It was associated with a Marian visionary event claimed in the early 2000s.


In August 2013, hundreds of supporters of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi rioters committed arson, setting fire to the Muharraq Monastery, adding it to the dozens of other Coptic churches, bookstores, houses, archival libraries, and monasteries that have been attacked and/or destroyed since the 2011 Imbaba church attacks.[8][9]

Its archival manuscript library holds, or held, many ancient Coptic manuscripts dating back as early as the 13th century.[9] Another section contained a collection of thousands of modern books and reference material dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.[9] The flames from the monastery's substantial fire reached surrounding Coptic homes in the complex, destroying 15 and damaging others. The fate of the ancient Coptic manuscripts and the monastery's 2 libraries is unknown.[10][9]

The Monastery is referred to as "Al Muharraq" because "muharraq" is an Arabic word which means "burn or wound inflicted by fire." This name originates from the fact that the monastery had been burned several times over its several centuries of existence, by foreign invaders, Berbers and other anti-Christian groups.[1]

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