Restorers working at the Monastery of St. Bishoy in the Wadi El-Natroun area have uncovered a number of medieval-era wall-paintings and architectural elements in the monastery's old church.
“While removing the modern layer of mortar from the walls of the monastery's old church, several coloured wall-paintings were uncovered,” Mohamed Abdellatif, deputy antiquities minister for archaeological sites, told Ahram Online.
He explained that the paintings date from between the 9th and 13th centuries AD, which will help archaeologists to determine the original architectural style of the church and the dates of its construction.
According to historical books and religious documents, he said, the church was subjected to changes and modifications in its architecture in 840 AD, during the Abbasid era, and in 1069 AD, during the Fatimid caliphate.
Ahmed El-Nemr, a member of the ministry’s scientific bureau, said that the newly discovered wall-paintings are frescoes, and depict scenes of saints and angels with Coptic religious inscriptions below.
“The most distinguished paintings are those on the western and eastern walls of the church,” he said, describing the painting on the western wall as showing a woman named as Refka and her five sons, who were martyred during the persecution of Christians by the Roman empire.
The painting on the eastern wall depicts three saints and an archangel, and features Coptic writings below.
El-Nemr explained that when restorers removed the modern additions they stumbled upon the ambon, an elevated platform that is a feature of many orthodox churches.
The newly discovered ambon is made of mud-brick covered with a layer of mortar and decorated with a red cross.
Some geometric drawings, crosses and lettering were also found in various parts of the church.
The conservation project by the antiquities ministry has been ongoing since 2015, when a number of monasteries in the Wadi El-Natroun area experienced flooding.
The Monastery of St. Bishoy is around 100 kilometres north-west of Cairo, and is located along the Cairo-Alexandria highway.
It has a collection of buildings, including five churches and a fort, as well as the tomb of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III, who died in 2012.
One of the paintings discovered at the monastery