El Bagawat

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The El Bagawat Christian cemetery at Kharga Oasis

El Bagawat, is an ancient Christian cemetery, one of the oldest in the world, which functioned at the Kharga Oasis in southern-central Egypt from the 3rd to the 7th century AD. It is one of the earliest and best preserved Christian cemeteries from the ancient world.


The Necropolis of El Bagawat is located in the Western Desert in Kharga Oasis. This is one of the largest oases in Egypt and is 34 m below sea level.[1]


The El Bagawat cemetery is reported to be pre-historic[2] and is one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in Egypt.[3][2] Before Christianity was introduced into Egypt, it was a burial ground used by the non-Christians and later years by the Christians. The chapels here are said to belong to both the eras.[4] Coptic frescoes of the 3rd to the 7th century are found on the walls.[5] There are 263 funerary chapels of which the Chapel of Exodus (5th or 6th century) and Chapel of Peace (of mid 4th century) have frescoes.[6]


The El Bagawat cemetery has a very large number of tombs in the form of chapel domes.[2][7] They are built of mud bricks. The tombs have etchings of biblical stories,[2] and also of saints and “personifications of virtues”.[2][7]

In the Exodus Chapel, there is depiction of martyrdom of Isiah;[8] and also of Tekla postured with raised hands, in front of fire being doused by rain. In the Chapel of Peace, the illustrative fresco is of Thekla and Paul.[6]

There are paintings in the cemetery which show the ark of Noah in the form of an "Egyptian barque". Also notable are carved representations of Old Testament scriptures, including Adam and Eve, Daniel in the lion's den, the sacrifice of Abraham, and Jonah swallowed by a fish.[8]


  1. ^ Stoppato 2003, p. 135.
  2. ^ a b c d e Egitto. 7000 Anni Di Storia. Ediz. Inglese. Casa Editrice Bonechi. 1 January 2007. pp. 247–. ISBN 978-88-476-1867-1.
  3. ^ Richardson 2003, p. 544.
  4. ^ Meinardus 1977, p. 483.
  5. ^ Gianfagna 2013, p. 25.
  6. ^ a b Wire & Chaney 2004, p. 234.
  7. ^ a b Ham 2010, p. 176.
  8. ^ a b Coptic Church Review. Coptic Church Review. 2000. pp. 119, 125.

Coordinates: 25°29′10″N 30°33′18″E / 25.486°N 30.555°E / 25.486; 30.555