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Wadi Natrun, the Coptic Monastic Community

Wadi Natrun, the Coptic Community in Egypt
Wadi Natrun, in the eastern desert near the Nile Delta, is of primary importance to the Coptic Orthodox community and attracts the interest of all visitors, orthodox and Roman-Catholic. There are four monasteries in the area, all Coptic: 1)The Monastery of the Romans (Deir Al Baramus), 2)The Monastery of Anba Beshoy, 3)The Monastery of the Syrians, 4)The Monastery of St. Macarius.

This monastic community was formed in the second half of the 4th century. It was St. Macarius the Great who retreated here in 330; this attracted more and more people who lived in natural or man-made caves organizing themselves in a monastic system. Recent research shows that, most probably, the initial community was formed around a deserted massive defense tower, built by the Romans, to defend the salt production of  Wadi Al Natrun. The churches were built according to the Roman-Coptic architecture, three aisled Basilicas.  They were divided into three sections, including Communion, Catechism and a Basin for sinners to baptize/bath. During the 8th to 11th centuries the monasteries were rebuilt, especially after a Bedouin attack in the beginning of the 9th century. Coptic monks served the monasteries for a decade, before they could be considered hermits. The monk then could be given a cave or dig one for himself, a tradition that was carried on for many centuries.

When the Arabs invaded Egypt, the Khalifa of Moslems in Arabia decreed that the Cristian Monks be allowed to practice their religion. Wadi Natrun became the official residence of the Coptic Patriarch and is so until now.