Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities spent eight years and $14.5 million dollars to carry out a comprehensive restoration and conservation of the ancient monastery, situated in the rugged desert mountains near Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
It was in this remote spot, at the end of the 3rd century that renowned Christian ascetic St. Anthony took up a residence in a cave, with little more than a spring and some palm trees to sustain him.
Upon his death in A.D. 356, his followers built cells and created the world’s first Christian monastery, which now houses 120 monks, the burial place of four saints, and ancient church paintings dating to the Middle Ages.
Monks say the restoration and discovery of the cells of the monks sheds important light on the early years of monasticism and bolsters the country’s long monastic tradition.
“For the monastery itself, this is very important, we have found a missing part of our history with this restoration, for there is nothing written about the beginning of the monastery,” said Father Maximus, who oversaw the renovation.