The Monastery of Saint Mina is a monastery of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria located in the Western Desert near Alexandria. It is dedicated to Saint Menas. The modern monastery is built close to the ruins of Abu Mena, the original pilgrimage site dating from the mid7th century.
Location of Monastery of Saint Mina
This site is about St. Mina (Menas) Coptic Orthodox Monastery in Mariut, near Alexandria, Egypt (Deir Mar Mina in Arabic), its history, and its famous saints and miracles.
Following the execution of Saint Mina, his sister brought his body to a church in Alexandria. When the persecution ended, during the papacy of Pope Athanasius of Alexandria, an angel appeared to the Pope and ordered him to load the saint’s body on a camel and head towards the Western Desert. At a spot near the water well at Lake Mariout, not far from Alexandria, the camel stopped and would not move. The Christians took this as a sign from God and buried Saint Mina’s body after placing it in a silver coffin. The coffin was later placed inside decay-resistant wood and buried at the exact location.
Most versions state that the tomb’s location was forgotten until its miraculous rediscovery by a local shepherd. A shepherd was feeding his sheep in that location, and a sick lamb fell on the ground. Its scab was cured as it struggled to get on its feet again. The story spread quickly, and the sick who came to this spot recovered from whatever illnesses they had just by lying on the ground. The Ethiopian Synaxarium describes Constantine I sending his sick daughter to the shepherd to be cured and credits her with finding Minas’ body. Constantine ordered the construction of a church at the site. Some versions replace Constantine with the late-5th century emperor Zeno, but archaeologists have dated the original foundation to the late 4th century. According to the Zeno version, his daughter was leprous, and his advisors suggested that she should try that place, and she did. At night Saint Mina appeared to the girl and informed her that his body was buried. The following morning, Zeno’s daughter was cured, and she related her vision about the saint to her servants. Zeno immediately ordered Mina’s body to be dug out, and a cathedral built there.
A large city was also built there and named after the saint. Sick people from all over the world used to visit that city and were healed through the intercessions of Saint Mina, who became known as the Wonders’ Maker. Today, numerous little clay bottles on which the saint’s name and picture are engraved are found by archaeologists in diverse countries around the Mediterranean world, such as Heidelberg in Germany, Milan in Italy, Dalmatia in Croatia, Marseille in France, Dongola in Sudan, and the holy city of Jerusalem. Visitors would buy these bottles, usually containing oil or water for blessing, and take them back to their relatives.
Destruction of the city of Saint Mina
The city of Saint Mina was destroyed during the Arab invasion of Egypt in the seventh century. The cathedral was also damaged. The remains of the city were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recent agricultural efforts in the area have led to a significant rise in the water table, which has caused many of the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable. The place was added to the list of threatened World Heritage Sites in 2001.
The New Monastery and Cathedral of Saint Mina
As soon as Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria became Pope and Patriarch on Saint Mark’s Throne in 1959, he began to build a great monastery close to the remains of the old city. The first abbot of the modern monastery was the late Mina Ava-Mina, a well-respected figure within the Coptic community. Pope Cyril VI had a peculiar relationship with Saint Mina and venerated him as his patron saint. Today, the Monastery of Saint Mina is one of the most famous monasteries in Egypt. The relics of Saint Mina and that of Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria lie in this monastery.
As of 2003, Kyrillos (Cyril) was the bishop and abbot of the Monastery of Saint Mina.