Basilica columns reinstalled in Minya
Often referred to as Hermopolis Magna, the Al-Ashmunein Basilica offers a portal to a bygone era, reports Nevine El-Aref.
Nestled amidst the serene surroundings of Al-Ashmunein near Minya on the boundary between Lower and Upper Egypt, the basilica bears witness to the early Christian period in Egypt, with its roots going back to the Ptolemaic period before the Roman invasion of Egypt in 31 BCE.
The basilica was built on the remains of a Ptolemaic temple, and it boasts a mesmerising fusion of artistic elements, religious symbolism, and architectural sophistication.
Believed to have been constructed in the fifth century CE, the basilica served as a place of worship, drawing pilgrims and believers from far and wide. Its strategic location at the crossroads of major trade routes contributed to its prominence and popularity.
The basilica is located outside the earlier Thoth Temple enclosure on the eastern side of the site. It was constructed using blocks from earlier Ptolemaic monuments in a Greek style of architecture. Most of its granite columns are still standing in their original locations.
During archaeological work carried out by a joint American-Egyptian archaeological mission on the site earlier this year, several scattered granite columns of the basilica were restored, reassembled, and lifted up to their original locations on the northern side of the building.
The mission also dismantled the columns found at the main entrance of the basilica, which were tilted towards the ground. These will be consolidated and restored and then re-erected in their original locations.
The mission unearthed the foundations of the Ptolemaic temple on which the basilica was constructed as well as the religious centre of the early city that included a group of ancient temples and a portico.
Work on site will continue in order to reveal more of the ancient temple and restore the whole of the basilica.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 31 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly