Minnesota in Egypt

White Monastery: Building at D (Unit Q)

Granary-Dispensary or Dormitory?

back to site map, or White Monastery.

Above we see three of the four long North-south running rooms visible at the bottom of the satellite image of Building D below.

On the right, we see the doorway into an east-west corridor dividing those rooms from three more at the south. The whole structure is sturdily built, finely plastered, with sober stone decoration at its doors.

It is interesting that buildings B, C, and D seem to relate to each other around a possible open communal space that is separated from the church.

This and other aspects of the spatial configuration as it seems to emerge so far were discussed in Brenningmeyer and McNally's paper (see abstracts), now outdated.

2012: Work done since 2003 when that paper was delivered does not seem to have changed the analysis of space near the church put forward there.

It is too soon to reach any solid conclusions until the forthcoming publications of detailed plans, but not to raise questions and suggest methods of approach.

This building was by its excavator, Mahmoud ali Mohammed, and Peter Grossmann in 1991. Grossmann included a fuller (description in his 2001 volume (see Bibliography), and in the Dumbarton Oaks Papers in 2004: 372 "(T)he masonry is of a superior quality, making this one of the more prominent buildings within the enclosure walls."), 275-378.

It was first considered a dormitory, later a granary, and more recently once again a dormitory. the relatively few, long large rooms differ from the small cells Shenute seems to require. By the time Justinian mandated that monks live in dormitories, this monastery would have been unlikely to obey.We do not know how many did.

Philip Sellew has tentatively identified this with the "dispensary called the place of service" for the monks' food that Bentley Layton has found mentioned in texts. This identification accords with its refined architecture, and its prominent position on the site. Layton's 2002 study shows the important place food distribution played in creating the communal life of the monastery.(links to full references, Sellew 2002, Layton 2002, 33.) Cf. Layton Symposium presentation (abstract).