FORTRESS

Fortresses are the earliest fortifications built by the monks of Egypt and served as towers of refuge to protect monks and sacred items during nomadic attacks. The fortress at St Antony’s Monastery was constructed of sandstone sometime during the reign of Justinian, approximately 537 AD. It stands 15 metres high and was only accessible by means of crossing a drawbridge. 

The fortress building contains 2 chapels:

  • The chapel of the Archangel Michael on the top floor, as common in all Coptic fortresses. Whilst the iconostasis bears a date of the 17th century, the chapel is much older;
  • The chapel of St Mina, located beneath the chapel of the Archangel Michael. This chapel which was recently renovated and established as a church by the present abbot His Grace Bishop Yostos, was once used as living quarters for the monks during barbaric raids.

Connecting with the fortress is the administration building which was used in the old days for managing the Monastery’s affairs. It also houses the ancient refectory where the monks, after celebrating the Eucharist, would come together for a common meal. As common in all Coptic monasteries, the eldest monk would stand at the head of the refectory where the monks are seated partaking in a common meal, and would read from the Bible or stories of the Desert Fathers.

The administration building contains 3 churches; 2 of which were established during the leadership of the present bishop and abbot His Grace Bishop Yostos:

  • The chapel of the Virgin Mary, which is the largest and oldest in the fortress. Its beautiful wooden iconostasis dating to the 18th century is inlaid with ivory crosses. Within the sanctuary is a unique wooden dome;
  • The chapel of St George, which once was a storage room for grain, was recently renovated and established as a church;
  • The chapel of St Abanoub and St Rebecca and her children, also once used as a place for storing grain, was recently renovated and established as a church.