The Neighborhood of the White Monastery
A cluster of important monastic sites,
recognized and unrecognized, lies in the area of the modern towns of
Sohag and Akhmim, where the Nile makes a deep bend.
go to site map,or to White
Monastery, or to Red Monastery
The White Monastery
is located on the west side of the Nile, 12 km from
the present city of Sohag, which is 450.5 km south of Cairo,
201.5 km north of Luxor.
In addition to the core monastery, Shenute
also presided over a neighboring monastery for women, (Krawiec
2001). Its site has recently been identified at Atripe, about three kilometers south of the White Monastery (not on these maps).
Five kilometers to the north is the Red
Monastery, now in a small village.
When these monasteries were founded, several
earlier monasteries already stood on the opposite side of the
river, near modern Akhmim (ancient Panopolis). several more
came into existence later, one of which functions today.
In the Early Christian period,
the largest city in this neighborhood was Panopolis (modern
Akhmim) on the eastern bank of the Nile. Panopolis was a thriving
center of industry, particularly textile making and stone carving.
It was also a center of learning and, in the Early Christian
period, a center of debate between various religious groups
probably incuding pagans, gnostics, practitioners of magic,
Documents tell us that the father of cenobitic monasticism, Pachomius,
founded several monasteries in or near Akhmim in the early fourth
century (see time line, and
Their sites have not been clearly determined,
but it seems likely that one of them stood at or near the site
of the present monastery of Dayr al-Shohada or Dayr
al-Wustani, one of three monasteries(or" dayrs") in a row
northeast of the city near the villages of al-Hawawish and al-Salamuni.
More monasteries sprang up later, including two in the Wadi
Bir el Ain and those shown on this map. On these, see most recently "Transformations of Ecclesiastical Space," McNally 1998.
1905, etc.; Kuhlmann 1983; Meinardus
1965: McNally and Schrunk 1993,
Samuel al-Syriani 1990; Timm