El Bagawat is an ancient Christian necropolis, one of the oldest globally, 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.
Location of El Bagawat Necropolis
The El Bagawat Cemetery is reported to be pre-historic and is one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in Egypt. 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 eras. Coptic frescoes of the 3rd to the 7th century are found on the walls. There are 263 funerary chapels, of which the Chapel of the Exodus (first half of the 4th century) and Chapel of Peace (5th or 6th century) have the best-preserved frescoes. However, visitors can also see the fresco fragments in Chapels 25, 172, 173, 175, and 210.
The El Bagawat cemetery has a vast number of tombs in the form of chapel domes. It comprises more than 260 mudbrick tombs from the early Christian era. These tombs have etchings of biblical stories and saints and “personifications of virtues”. They are built of mud bricks.
In the Exodus Chapel, there is a depiction of Isiah’s martyrdom and Tekla postured with raised hands in front of a fire being doused by rain. The illustrative fresco is of Thekla and Paul in the Chapel of Peace.
There are paintings in the cemetery that show Noah’s ark 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.