St. Paul’s Monastery dates back to the 4th century, when it began as a group of hermitages. Paul had been born into a wealthy family in Alexandria. He fled to the Eastern Desert to avoid persecution by the Romans. Here, he lived in a cave for 90 years. According to tradition, in 343 AD, St. Anthony had a vision of St. Paul, and after trekking through the mountains to visit him Paul died leaving the then 90 year old Anthony to bury him.
The fortress in the hills was where the monks retreated during Bedouin raids.
The monks of St. Paul’s Monastery live out their lives in the seclusion of the Egypt’s Eastern Desert. Some may make it into Cairo or other places in Egypt to visit their families once every three to six months and only for a couple of days at that. In their practice they have sacrificed their families and other modern aspects of life in order to commit fully to the Lord. The different forms of dress indicate the monks level of education or status within the order.
The beauty of the St. Paul’s is undeniable with it’s expanse of history behind it. The architectural features are breathtaking like the giant wooden doors at it’s entrance and the frescos that adorn the interior walls in the ceremonial and sacred spaces are lovely and amazingly preserved despite their vulnerability to visitors wandering hands. Those familiar with any of the stories of the bible or other historical/religious texts from the time of the prophets can really get a sense of intimacy of almost “being there”. The monastery comes complete with it’s own source of holy water, a freshwater spring that bubbles up from the ground is enclosed in a dedicated room and is quite a popular attraction. It is hard not to dip a hand or foot in as there are still so many things that we just can’t explain. I am sure there are many that could resist but….well….