Hanging Monastery on Mount Abnoub

Hanging Monastery

The Hanging Monastery of Saint Mina is one of the monasteries of the Assiut Governorate, lying in Abnoub city.

Location of the Hanging Monastery on Mount Abnoub

The Hanging Monastery stands on the eastern bank of the Nile River. It is about 25 km north of Abnoub city, 170 meters above the earth’s surface. Therefore, it gained fame as the hanging monastery because it hung high on the mountain’s bosom.

History of the Hanging Monastery in Assiut

The monastery’s history dates back to the fourth century AD. Many historians wrote about the history of monasteries, including al-Maqrizi in his plans and the face of 503. Al-Maqrizi wrote about the monastery’s location, access to it, and aspects of life in it. Pope Athanasius, the Apostolic evident, came to this cave and resided there during his unity in the wilderness.

 Is a small monastery, hanging on the mountain and hewn of stone, on a rock below which there is a steep precipice so that it can neither be reached above nor below. There are no steps, but there are incisions cut in the mountainside; and if anyone wishes to ascend, a long pole is let down to him, which he grasps with both hands, and by placing his feet in the incisions so ascends.

The monastery contains a mill driven by an ass. The monastery, which rises above the Nile in the viewpoint of Manfalut and Umm al-Kusur, stands opposite to an island surrounded by water called Shakalkil, on which are two villages, one called Shakalkil, the other Bani Shakir. This monastery keeps a festival at which Christians assemble and bears the name of Saint Mennas, one of the soldiers persecuted by Diocletian, so that he might abjure Christianity and worship idols. Still, as he remained constant in his faith, Diocletian caused him to be put to death on the 10th of Haziran or1 the 6th of Babah.

El-Maqrisi’s description of the Hanging Monastery

Description of Monastery of the Great Martyr Mina, the Wondrous

Partly built of brick and partly rock-hewn, the keep comprises three floors, the first mainly populated with cells for the monks. The second floor consists of three rooms used as a sacrificial hall in honour of the saint. However, the third floor leads to the top of the keep, where two churches exist, both carved into the rock.

According to Bishop Lukas of Abnoub, the monastery is typical of the hermitages around Assiut from the fourth century. At that time, monks lived in different places without a uniform style. For example, Saint Yohanna El-Assiuti lived in a two-room cell with a window, through which he could see those who came to visit him,” Bishop Lukas explained.

Other monks lived in small monastic communities. Still, others lived alone in caves, either at the edge of the agricultural land or deep in the desert.

The Nile attracted many monastic groups, echoing earlier Pharaonic traditions of making offerings and prayers to the river to ensure a good crop.

Some monks took on the responsibility of praying for a good flood. Saint Yohanna El-Assiuti had the reputation of knowing the unknown and was able to predict the rise and fall of the flood and anticipate the crops. For that reason, during the annual celebrations performed at the beginning of the flood season, he was asked to bless the Nile water instead of the pagan priest.

Bishop Lukas’s word about the monastery

Ancient Fort

Among the forts built by Queen Helena, mother of King Constantine, adjacent to the mountain rocks. It consists of three floors and retains its shape from the fourth century AD. The restoration of the monastery began in 1998 under the supervision of the Antiquities Authority and consisted of:

  • The first floor is the entrance to the fort, with the staircase ascending to the second floor, and there are some ancient doors and some other artefacts, and there is the old Tafs (the burial of the monks).
  • The second floor contains a church named after Pope Athanasius, the Apostolic and Anba Arsany, the teacher of the Children of Kings. Architects restored, renovated the archaeological fortress and a stone-carved quarry.
  • Also, the third floor has a group of lockers.

Monastery churches

Copts renovated the monastery with two new buildings constructed beside the ancient keep. One building houses an icon of Saint Mina Al-Agaibi.

There are four churches in the monastery. The ancient Church of Martyr Mar Mina, in the name of Martyr Mar Mina, is the Cave Church, which contains the antique icon holder. The temple’s door is similar to the Gate of Prophecies located in the Syriac Monastery, and the church includes a group of archaeological icons.

The Church of Saint Mina is a modest place of worship built into an ancient cave. No rich rugs, icons or chandeliers here; its significance is its age and location. The wooden gate of the presbytery bears Coptic inscriptions like those on the gates of the Monastery of the Syrians at Wadi Al-Natrun. One of the monks indicates that the Arabic and Coptic inscriptions on the gate were the names of donators. He also confirmed that they had financed some restorations inside the monastery 300 years ago.

Christians converted the monastery’s other church from a Pharaonic temple. Today, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael is the current church. Meanwhile, this ancient shrine is still noticeable in the Pharaonic inscriptions. Monks use the other one as a storeroom for incense, candles, oil and flour for the sacred bread. Recently, the renovation included new cells for monks and a reception hall for visitors.

Pilgrimage to Deir El-Muallaq

Hanging Monastery in Asyut is mainly a place of pilgrimage for Egyptians. Locals tend to come in big numbers during the annual festival, from 8 July to 8 August. Foreigners come in a few numbers.

How to Get to Hanging Monastery on Abnoub Mount?

The remote monastery of Saint Mina Al-Agaiby (the miraculous), on the east bank of the Nile near Assiut, in Upper Egypt. The monastery is nestled high up between two massive rocks in the Mountain of Abu Foda. It is roughly 170 metres above ground level. The steep road leading up to the monastery is not for cars so that visitors can reach it on foot.

Getting to Abu Foda Mount is a trek. The village of El-Maabdna, which lies at the foot of the mountain, lies on the outskirts of Abnoub, roughly 35 kilometres northeast of Assiut. There is a need to cross the Nile by ferry and then hire a car to the monastery. Making the way across the Nile in this part of Upper Egypt is a fantastic picnic through Egypt’s nature. One can enjoy the lush, green agricultural lands, the calm waters of the Nile and the desert further.

The steep road leading up to the monastery was not for cars. To reach it, visitors will need to walk on foot. Once on the east bank of the Nile, the car goes along the narrow road, lined with palm trees, out to Abu Foda. There are farms and tiny traditional homes.

Also, there are the ruins of a small village, a Coptic community from the fifth century AD, up to the ancient keep. From the monastery, the view is breathtaking, and the ascending stairway leads to the monastery.