Guide to a Perfect trip in Egypt!
St. Paul the Anchorite is a Coptic Saint who was born in Alexandria in 228 AD. He is also known as St. Paul of Thebes and as Amba Bola in Arabic. The Monastery Of St. Paul covers an area of about 5 acres of land and is rectangular in shape, 200 meters long by 100 meters wide.
While he was still a teenager Paul's father died so he decided to become a hermit and live a simple life. At the age of 16, he became a Christian and escaped Alexandria to avoid Roman persecution. According to one story, God sent Paul an angel who guided him to the western desert, where he could live alone as a hermit. The same story relates how God sent Paul a crow every day which carried half a loaf of bread to feed him. One day St. Anthony joined Paul, and when the crow came, it had a full loaf of bread. St. Paul then realized that it was God who had sent St. Anthony, after 80 years of him worshipping in solitude.
St. Anthony went back to his patriarch to tell him of the holiness of St. Paul and then returned back the cave where St. Paul was living only to find Paul dead. Anthony became confused and did not know what to do with the holy body, as he had nothing to dig the ground with so that he could bury him. Then Anthony saw two lions standing by the door of the cave. They approached the corpse and used their claws to dig in the ground. St. Anthony put St. Paul’s body into this hole and buried him.
This is why whenever you see an icon for St. Paul in Egypt either in the monastery or the in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, it shows him a flanked by two lions with a crown above his head.
The monastery is about 40 Km to the south of the monastery of St. Anthony and is built on a high hill. The Monastery of St. Paul consists of various structures including:
This is the oldest structure in the whole monastery. It was built on top of the cave where St. Paul had lived for 80 years in the wilderness of the desert. The cave is three meters below sea level, and is reachable by a staircase. At the end of it there are three sanctuaries.
This church is built on top of St. Paul’s church and has only one sanctuary. It also contains a little library.
This church has three sanctuaries and is divided into four sections of equal size. It is covered with twelve beautiful domes. The monastery also has the remains of an old fortress that has a little guesthouse, storerooms, and a garden.