ON TOP of a small hill on the west side of Nag Hammadi near Qena in Upper Egypt stands the Saint Bidaba Monastery welcoming worshippers and visitors after five years of restoration, reports Nevine El-Aref.
The restoration work was carried out at the monastery’s three chapels, whose holding walls were consolidated, cracks repaired, and void spaces in the walls filled with the same material as the original bricks in order to ensure that all the original architectural features were retained.
The wooden surfaces, ceilings and decorations were cleaned, treated, and covered with a layer of special insulating material to protect them from heat and humidity. A new lighting system was installed along with modern toilets.
Atef Al-Dabah, head of the Scientific Bureau at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the monastery had been registered on Egypt’s Heritage List since 1992. It is attributed to Bidaba, the bishop of Qeft who was killed during the persecution of the Christians by the Romans between 303 and 311 CE.
Bishop Bidaba built his own cell for prayer on the site of the monastery during the third century CE, and it is believed to have been the first cell to be built where the monastery stands today.
The monastery has a rectangular shape with three chapels in its centre. The most important is dedicated to Bidaba himself and houses shrines to the martyrs Abu Seifein and Mar Boktor Al-Roumany, along with shrines to the Archangel Michael and St John the Baptist.
At the north-west side there is a well that is used for Epiphany rituals. The Virgin Mary Chapel contains shrines to the Virgin Mary, various bishops, and the Angel Gabriel. The third chapel is dedicated to St Cidaros and can be reached from the Bidaba Chapel. It houses a shrine and a prayer room.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.